In order for recently acquired point guard Elfrid Payton to become a key piece for the Phoenix Suns, he will have to improve.
The former No. 10 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft has been a disappointment, and despite him having a career year in his fourth NBA season, there are still two main areas he needs to address: shooting and defense.
Defense is pretty simple. Payton needs to take advantage of the physical tools he has and turn that into being at least an anti-negative on that end. In a new city with a new team, a new coach and new players, maybe that’s all he needs for that. Or, maybe he never turns it around.
Shooting is the one swing skill for his trajectory because, as we previously covered, his finishing at the rim has consistently been fantastic.
Payton is shooting 37.3 percent this year from deep, a noticeable improvement from his 26.2, 32.6 and 27.4 percentages in his first three seasons in Orlando.
The good news about Payton is he knows what he is. Even with an uptick in his percentage, he’s not forcing shots.
He’s only taking 1.5 attempts per game this year, an even lower number than the 1.8 per game he attempted last season when he shot 27.4 percent.
Per Cleaning the Glass, Payton takes 13 percent of his shots from 3-point range. That is in the fifth percentile amongst players at his position.
His shot has a long load up and is on a bit of a line, making those queasy who have seen enough flat shots from Dragan Bender this year.
In this catch-and-shoot clip, we get a good angle of his form from the side. Notice how Payton catches the ball at just about shoulder-length, but then to undergo the rhythm of his shot, brings the ball way back down.
The ball is nearly at his knees when he’s squared up and bending his knees. He then has to bring the ball all the way back up to the right side of his head where the transition of his shooting motion is fairly smooth.
The numbers back up Payton needing space for the motion.
Of his 67 attempts this year, 62 have come with at least four feet of space from the closest defender and he didn’t make those other five, per nba.com.
As you can see by the form, Payton is not someone taking these off the dribble. He has taken 58 of his 67 threes in catch-and-shoot situations, accounting for some being late-clock situations where he had to shoot.
Payton is problematic because of that motion. Watch here how far away the Hawks’ Dennis Schroder helps off Payton and lazily closes out, but still manages to get somewhat of a contest because of how long it takes Payton to get this off.
The point here is that even with that jump in accuracy, Payton, in many ways, is still the same shooter he once was.
That limits his game as a lead guard as is, but in a system with Devin Booker, it’s more important for him to make the few open catch-and-shoot looks he gets a game, and he was doing that well in Orlando this year with someone like Evan Forunier.
That is a must, though, especially somewhere like Phoenix that lacks spacing.
But, if we do the math here, combine Payton being a consistent off-ball threat with his decent point guard skills and terrific finishing around the rim and we’ve really got something on the offensive end as a starting-level point guard.
That’s enough value for the Suns to want to see more of Payton next season in a legitimate role, and if there’s sustained glimpses of the defensive prospect he once was, now the Suns could be on the verge of having a viable long-term point guard.