On May 22, "Young Jake" Pavorsky sent out an email instructing us to declare the prospect we wanted to talk about in the then-upcoming Pimp Your Prospect series that you are reading now. I selected Elfrid Payton, thinking he was more of an unheralded player from Louisiana-Lafayette that had just started getting a little bit more attention due to his performances in the Sun Belt and NCAA tournaments. The fact that he had a cool name only added to my blossoming adoration.
Strangely enough, in his latest mock draft (insider subscription required), Chad Ford has him going 12th overall to the Orlando Magic. But here's the craziest part. In his commentary on the mock pick, Ford ends on this nugget, "[Payton]'s now in play as high as the Lakers at No. 7."
Oh boy, how did we get here?
LB Draft Coverage
LB Draft Coverage
To say the least, Payton is much more well known in basketball circles now than he was back in February, so much so that he has quickly made a jump from underrated to overrated.* But what is it about Payton, besides the fact his name is Elfrid, that excites people such as myself so much in the first place?
*I love Elfrid Payton to death. He is not the seventh best prospect in this draft.
First and foremost, Payton is a very capable defender. Payton is 6'4", 185 pounds, and has a 6'8" wingspan. Wowser. To put that into perspective, Michael Carter-Williams measured a 6'7.25" wingspan at last year's combine. Payton may be a couple inches shorter, but him matching MCW in wingspan is a very scary proposition for players he is guarding against, as evidenced by his 2.3 steals per game last season and 2.4 steals per game in 2012-13.
For some perspective, Mr. Nine Steals Against The Heat MCW only averaged 1.8 steals per game with Syracuse, though it must be said that Payton did his work in the lowly Sun Belt whereas MCW did his work in the final season of the old Big East. Elfrid not only has long arms to disrupt passing lanes, he has very quick feet that allow him to make plays and serve as a threat in transition. Furthermore, Payton is incredibly versatile defensively, as he illustrated in the NCAA Tournament when he guarded Creighton forward Doug McDermott.
On the offensive side of things, Payton does some fun things as well. He is capable of running pick-and-roll offense in addition in addition to being able to create shots for himself in the half-court offense, proving he is more than just a transition threat. However there are holes in Payton's offense that may prevent him from reaching his full potential, namely his outside shooting. Though Payton is more than capable of creating his own shot, they do not always go in, especially from the outside, where he shot a poor 25.9% from beyond the arc in 2013-14, down from 32.7% in the 2012-13 season. He also struggles with his finishing at the basket, making him a perfect candidate to be given the choker label by Skip Bayless should he ever get an opportunity to play for a marquee team or in a marquee game in his career.
Few prospects have risen up draft boards quicker or more suddenly than Elfrid has in the past couple months. He went from second round pick to late first round pick to now a projected lottery pick. In the end, there is almost no way Payton goes seventh to Los Angeles, and it would probably be somewhat of a surprise to see him go in the lottery. But just because some people may overrate him a bit, it does not mean there is not potential there. There absolutely is but one must love Elfrid for what he is, not for what the Lakers (allegedly) want him to be.