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McDonough: Elfrid Payton viewed as a potential ‘long-term fit’

Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton, right, drives around Los Angeles Lakers' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. Orlando won 127-105. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
LISTEN: Ryan McDonough, Phoenix Sun's General Manager

The Phoenix Suns decided to get in on the NBA trading frenzy, swapping a 2018 second-round pick for point guard Elfrid Payton from the Orlando Magic on Thursday.

Speaking with Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough gave his thoughts on the acquisition.

“I feel like we got a very talented young player to add to our core in Elfrid, who’s going to be a free agent at the end of the year, but we view as a guy who will helps us a lot in the short term, we view as potentially a long-term fit as well,” McDonough said.

With injuries to fellow point guards Brandon Knight and more recently, Isaiah Canaan, plus the departure of disgruntled Eric Bledsoe, the Suns were thin at the point guard position. Scrambling to find bodies, the team even added G Leaguer Josh Gray to help fill holes. Devin Booker also took over point guard duties before injuries kept him out the last two games before the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“We just had a bad run at one position and so we’ve been looking for potential solutions there. Frankly, we didn’t think Elfrid would be available and certainly not the cost we ended up paying for him, so we’re excited to add him to our group,” McDonough said.

“We like our depth and talent, especially two through five so guys who can play shooting guard through center, but we’ve been looking for a young point guard and Elfrid at 23 years-old brings us good size and length at the position. He’s very athletic. He’s a good finisher around the basket.”

In his fourth season, Payton is averaging 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. He was the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He is making $3.3 million and will have a qualifying offer worth $4.5 million when he hits free agency this summer.

And while his defense is considered his strong suit, his offense has been an area that needs improvement.

“I think the main knock on him offensively to this point of his career has been that he’s struggled some with his shooting, although if you look at his numbers this year, he’s over 50 percent from the floor and 37 percent from the three-point line so we’re excited about all that,” McDonough said.

Before this season, Payton had never shot better than 33 percent from long range. In his previous three seasons with the Magic, Payton’s highest field goal percentage was 47 percent (2016-17).

The addition, McDonough feels, will help the core players — Booker, Jackson and Warren — create more opportunities to score on the court.

But McDonough also added Payton isn’t just in the game to facilitate.

“On the court, he’s capable of doing a lot of things on both ends of the floor and he’s the guy who has the ability to put up a triple-double here and there with his scoring, rebounding and passing.”

Payton could see his first action with the team on Saturday when the Suns host the Denver Nuggets. He is set to wear the No. 2 jersey for Phoenix. You can catch all the action on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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