Elfrid Payton

Elfrid Payton Facing Uncertain Future With Suns

Having been sent from Orlando to Phoenix at this season’s trade deadline, Elfrid Payton has enjoyed his time with the Suns so far, according to Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic, who says Payton likes his teammates and the city, and believes the club will be a winner soon.

“I think they have a chance to be really good, especially in the near future,” Payton said. “So I would love to be here.”

However, even though the Suns surrendered a second-round pick for Payton in that deadline deal, there’s no guarantee that the franchise will invest in the point guard beyond this season, says Bordow. The 24-year-old will be eligible for restricted free agency in the offseason, giving Phoenix the opportunity to match any offer he receives, but it’s unclear whether the team will do so, according to Bordow.

Payton got off to a fast start with the Suns, averaging 16.4 PPG, 8.2 APG, and 8.0 RPG with a pair of triple-doubles during his first nine games with the team. However, he has posted just 8.3 PPG, 4.4 APG, and 2.9 RPG with poor shooting numbers in seven games since then.

Additionally, even when Payton was posting those impressive counting stats, the advanced numbers suggested that he was struggling on both ends of the court. In nearly 500 minutes with Payton on the floor so far, the Suns have a -17.8 net rating — they’ve been worse on both offense (97.4 rating) and defense (115.1) when he plays, per NBA.com.

As Bordow notes, the Suns expect veteran point guard Brandon Knight to be healthy and have a role next season. Phoenix will also likely hold multiple first-round picks in this year’s draft, putting the team in a good position to draft a point guard. If the Suns go that route, there may not be a clear-cut role for Payton that would make it worth investing in a new deal for him.

Plenty can change between now and July, so we’ll wait to see how Payton’s free agency plays out, whether that means remaining in Phoenix or joining his third team of 2018. For his part, the former lottery pick is trying to avoid dwelling on his uncertain future.

“It can be a stressful time, but I’m in a good place,” Payton said, per Bordow. “I’m going to work on everything and whatever happens for me, happens for me.”

Pacific Notes: Bradley, Evans, Caldwell-Pope, Payton

Clippers guards Avery Bradley and Jawun Evans are both suffering from ailments that could result in offseason surgery, writes Elliott Teaford of The Orange County Register. For the first time today, coach Doc Rivers brought up surgery as an option for Bradley, who has a sports hernia. The organization is hoping the 27-year-old, who was acquired from the Pistons late last month, can return in a week or two, but they’re being careful with him. He has played six games for L.A. since the trade and hasn’t been on the court since February 14.

“He’s one of the, if not the best, he’s one of the top five defensive guys on the ball in the league,” Rivers said. “And that’s all movement there [in a players’ core muscles]. So it’s tough blow.”

Evans, who has been diagnosed with a “sore lower abdominal ailment,” hasn’t been able to play since January 20.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has played much better since resolving his legal issues last month, notes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. With free agency looming, Caldwell-Pope has been showing off his scoring ability, hitting eight 3-pointers in a 34-point performance Saturday night. “It was kind of hard with that situation I had, but now that’s behind me,” he said. “I can focus on just one thing — that’s basketball. It’s been good just to be able to get my work when I need it and just be ready for games.”
  • The Suns have the rest of the season to determine if they want to team Elfrid Payton with Devin Booker as their backcourt of the future, relays Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. Payton has solidified the point guard position since coming to Phoenix in a trade at the deadline, but the front office has to decide if Payton’s abilities are the best complement for Booker and if he is worth the estimated $10MM annually it will cost to keep him when he hits restricted free agency this summer. The Suns will also consider whether they want to draft a new point guard or keep Payton and use their pick on a center.
  • Shooting guard Danuel House has reached the 45-day NBA limit under his two-way contract, Bordow tweets. House has returned to the Suns‘ Northern Arizona affiliate and can’t come back to Phoenix until the G League season is over unless his contract is converted to a regular NBA deal.

Elfrid Payton Talks Trade, Suns, Future

The Cavaliers’ series of deadline-day trades dominated headlines last Thursday, overshadowing one of the most interesting moves of the day, as the Suns’ acquired Elfrid Payton from the Magic in exchange for a second-round pick.

With Payton’s restricted free agency around the corner, Orlando’s decision to send the 23-year-old to Phoenix signaled that the Magic didn’t view him as part of their future. Still, it was somewhat surprising to see the former 10th overall pick traded straight up for a lone second-round selection.

Speaking to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Payton shared several thoughts on how the trade went down, how he feels about being the newest member of the Suns, and what he thinks his future may hold. The Q&A is worth checking out in full, but we’ll relay some of Payton’s most interesting answers in the space below…

On whether he felt disrespected by being traded for a mere second-round pick:

“A little bit. I think a lot of other people were more upset about it than I was, though. Others took it to heart more than I did, but that’s just because of the type of person I am. I’m pretty nonchalant and I don’t really get worked up, so it wasn’t really that big of a deal to me. I’ve always felt underrated and felt like I have to prove myself. I’m the kind of player who feels like you have to prove yourself every single night – no matter what you’ve done or who you are – because in this league everyone is thinking, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ So it wasn’t too big of a deal to me.”

On the trade in general:

“I’ve seen a lot of people say that it was a steal for Phoenix and stuff like that; I guess time will tell. I heard [the Magic] were offered a lot more than a second-round pick [from other teams], but they just didn’t decide to do one of those other trades… I don’t know all of the details, but I know they had offers from a team in the East and a different West Coast team other than Phoenix.”

On being surprised by the trade:

“About 30 to 45 minutes before the trade actually went down, my agent told me, ‘It seems like the talks are over and it looks like you’ll be staying in Orlando, at least until the end of the season.’ They had heard from [GM] John [Hammond] or [president of basketball operations] Jeff [Weltman] – I don’t know which one exactly, I’m not sure. But they were basically saying the talks were done and a trade was unlikely. Then, maybe seven or eight minutes before the deadline, the deal happened.”

On where his career will go from here:

“I feel like I still have a very high ceiling. Obviously, my shooting has gotten better this year, but I still feel like I can become a way better shooter. And there are still so many different things that I’m learning about the game and so many areas where I know I can improve. For example, I’m finding little tricks to get to the free-throw line more and get my team in the bonus. I’m also working hard to improve on the defensive end. I feel like my ceiling is still pretty high and I have a lot of room for growth.”

On whether he can see himself sticking with the Suns beyond this season:

“Yeah, I really could. Obviously, it’s not only up to me and I understand the business side of the NBA, but this is definitely somewhere I could see myself being for a long time.”

Pacific Rumors: Ball, Bradley, Warren, Payton

Lonzo Ball went through a full-contact practice on Tuesday but won’t return until after the All-Star break, Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register reports. The Lakers rookie point guard has been sidelined since spraining his left knee on January 13th. Coach Luke Walton remained vague on when Ball would suit up. “When his body is ready, then he’ll play again,” Walton told Teaford and other reporters. “I can’t tell you whether that’s going to be the first game [after the All-Star break], the second game or the third game.”

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers shooting guard Avery Bradley admits he’s having trouble finding his place in the team’s offensive scheme, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports. Bradley is averaging just 9.0 PPG in 28.6 MPG since he was dealt by the Pistons to Los Angeles as part of the Blake Griffin blockbuster. “I think it’s a mix of me trying to find my rhythm and my game and trying to learn how to play off these guys,” Bradley told Turner. “They have a lot of offensive-minded guys on this team. So I have to figure out, and not only myself, but (coach Doc Rivers) has to figure out how he wants to use me.”
  • Forward T.J. Warren is making the four-year, $50MM contract extension the Suns gave him look like a bargain, according to Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic. He’s averaging 19.7 PPG and making over 50% of his field-goal attempts. “Coming into the league, I was known for being a scorer,” Warren told Bordow. “Just getting the opportunity and staying consistent is big for me. I’m just trying to get better, make my way in this league and earn the respect of my peers.”
  • It’s no sure thing that the Suns will try to re-sign restricted free agent point guard Elfrid Payton this summer, as Bordow explains in a separate story. Phoenix, which acquired Payton for a second-round pick from the Magic, could free up $10MM in salary-cap space by renouncing Payton’s rights, Bordow continues. With Brandon Knight expected to return next season from a knee injury, the Suns could then draft a point guard as Knight’s eventual replacement and pursue a center in free agency. Bordow adds.

Pacific Notes: Payton, Papagiannis, Green, Suns

Elfrid Payton‘s stint with the Magic ended on Thursday and by Saturday, he was putting up a solid performance in his Suns debut. The former lottery pick posted 19 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds in the Suns’ 123-113 loss to the Nuggets. Payton’s performance drew rave reviews from his teammates and coaches, NBA.com’s Cody Cunningham writes.

“I thought he was good,” Suns head coach Jay Triano said. “It was different, the pace of play was better, getting the ball up and down the court, getting into the lane when he needed to, and making passes. He made the guys on the floor with him better.”

Payton, 23, has been viewed a disappointment through his first four NBA seasons after being the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. However, given his age and upside, Payton drew interest from several teams prior to the deadline.

Check out other Pacific Division notes:

  • The agent of now-former Kings center Georgios PapagiannisMarios Olympios, was critical of the team’s decision to waive the 20-year-old, Aris Barkas of Euro Hoops writes. “He (Papagiannis) never got a chance by the Kings,” Olympios said on the Greek radio station Sport FM, Barkas writes. “He had a double-double every time he played in the G-League. He had to travel for two and a half hour everytime he was assigned to Reno and still he performed. There are many details that prove that he never got a real chance”.
  • Warriors forward Draymond Green was fined $50,000 for directing inappropriate and offensive language toward a game official, the NBA announced on its website. The incident occurred during the Warriors’ loss to the Thunder this past Tuesday.
  • The Suns received $1.5MM back in the buyout of new Celtics center Greg Monroe, tweets salary cap expert Albert Nahmad.
  • After a blockbuster trade with the Cavaliers on Thursday, the Lakers freed up a ton of cap space that could be used to lure two premiere free agents to Los Angeles this summer. Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register writes that the organization’s moves have put it in position to be relevant again.

Knicks Notes: Mudiay, Ntilikina, Kornet, Noah

If Emmanuel Mudiay makes his Knicks debut today, he won’t have much preparation, writes Anthony Rieber of Newsday. Acquired Thursday from the Nuggets in a three-team trade, Mudiay wasn’t permitted to practice Saturday because the transaction wasn’t official. Devin Harris, who was sent to Denver in the deal, had yet to complete his physical. All coach Jeff Hornacek could do was talk to Mudiay, who is expected to suit up if the deal gets finalized before today’s 4:00 pm Central game in Indiana.

“Wish he could have been able to get out there and go through things, but he wasn’t allowed to,” Horacek said. “We’re going to have to continue to talk to him. Unfortunately, it’s an early game, so we won’t have a shootaround, but we’ll go over things with him on film. He was able to watch things, at least. I think he has a pretty good idea, so I don’t think it’ll take long for him to adjust.”

There’s more news out of New York:

  • Mudiay’s addition to an already-crowded point guard situation will result in fewer minutes for some players, but Hornacek expects them to handle it like professionals, Rieber adds in the same story. The coach isn’t worried about a negative attitude from rookie Frank Ntilikina, who has watched the organization add four point guards since he was drafted with the No. 8 pick in June. “To me, mentally weak guys think that,” Hornacek said. “Mentally strong guys don’t think that. They say, ‘OK, bring on whoever. I don’t care.’ I can see that in Frank. He has that mentality.”
  • Luke Kornet‘s impressive NBA debut made the decision to trade Willy Hernangomez easier to understand, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Kornet had 11 points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes Friday and became the first player ever with four blocks and three 3-pointers in his first game. Kornet’s breakout performance makes it even more unlikely that Joakim Noah will return from his leave of absence this year, according to Berman, who adds that the Knicks tried to send the veteran center to Orlando in a deal for Elfrid Payton.
  • Enes Kanter, who has a player option for next season worth more than $18.6MM, wants to spend the rest of his career in New York, relays Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. Kanter said the city has a negative reputation in some NBA circles, but he believes in the front office led by president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry. “I like this place, man,” Kanter said. “It’s weird because people are scared to come to New York because they think New York is scary, all these bad things but I think this organization is good, man. These guys, Scott and Steve, the coaches and everything. They are just making sure you got everything you need so you can just focus on basketball.”

Magic Trade Elfrid Payton To Suns

8:41pm: The Magic have officially traded Payton to the Suns, the team announced in a press release. Phoenix waived Isaiah Canaan in order to clear a roster spot for Payton.Elfrid Payton vertical

2:52pm: Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel clarifies (via Twitter) that the second-round pick the Magic receive in the deal will actually be the second-most favorable of the Grizzlies’, Hornets’, and Heat’s 2018 second-rounders. For now, that would be the Charlotte pick.

1:58pm: The Magic and Suns have agreed to a trade, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the teams will swap point guard Elfrid Payton for a second-round pick. That pick will be the Grizzlies’ 2018 second-rounder, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7.

The deal signals a new start for Payton, who is headed for restricted free agency this summer. His streaky shooting and problems on defense made him expendable, especially as a new regime took over in Orlando’s front office. Payton was having a fine statistical season, averaging 13.0 points, 6.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game, but the Magic still aren’t winning and the organization decided to go in a different direction.

He will get a chance to revive his career with the Suns, who have been looking for a new point guard since trading Eric Bledsoe to Milwaukee. Phoenix lost Isaiah Canaan to a broken ankle at the end of January and was down to just one healthy point guard on its roster. The addition of Payton allows Devin Booker to move back to his natural position of shooting guard, adds Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

The Suns reached the salary floor with the move and have $6.9MM in cap space remaining, posts Bobby Marks on ESPN Now. Payton will carry a cap hit of $3.3MM and will be restricted this summer if Phoenix tenders a $4.8MM qualifying offer as expected.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Knicks Rumors: Payton, Noah, Biyombo, Hernangomez

The Knicks got some devastating news on Tuesday night, as an MRI revealed that Kristaps Porzingis suffered a torn ACL, sidelining him for the rest of the 2017/18 season — and likely for the start of next season too.

After a solid start to the year, there was speculation that the Knicks could remain in the playoff picture in the East, with key contributors like Porzingis and Enes Kanter publicly encouraging the organization to push for the postseason rather than selling off assets. Already mired in a slump though, the Knicks are now nine games below .500 and their playoff hopes appear to be on life support.

With the Porzingis injury further reducing the Knicks’ chances of making a late-season run, members of the franchise have already discussed giving the team’s young players more minutes for the rest of the year, sources tell Ian Begley of ESPN (Twitter link). While Begley says it’s not clear yet whether that’s the definitive plan, it would certainly make sense to shift in that direction.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks have checked in on Magic guard Elfrid Payton, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who notes that Knicks GM Scott Perry was a member of Orlando’s front office when the club drafted Payton. Berman adds that Perry and the Knicks view Payton as the type of athletic player they covet, and believe the fourth-year point guard has more upside as a defender than the advanced metrics suggest.
  • According to Berman, the Knicks and Magic have engaged in preliminary talks about Payton, and the two teams have discussed the possibility of including highly-paid bigs Joakim Noah and Bismack Biyombo in a deal. Still, these talks occurred before Porzingis went down on Tuesday, so it’s not clear how that injury impacts New York’s plans.
  • The Nuggets are one of about a dozen teams that have inquired on Willy Hernangomez, but the young center isn’t being discussed in talks with the Magic, sources tell Berman. The Knicks would likely move Hernangomez if they could get a first-round pick or a promising young player at a different position in return, says Berman.
  • With Porzingis potentially sidelined until the 2019 calendar year, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton examines how the injury will affect the Knicks’ offseason plans. If Porzingis misses a good chunk of the 2018/19 season, the team may end putting off any major veteran additions until at least 2019, Pelton notes. He adds that the injury could make a Courtney Lee trade more viable for the Knicks, since Lee is more of a win-now piece.

Lowe’s Latest: Cavs, Jordan, Magic, Nuggets, Sixers

On Monday, we rounded up some of the highlights from a Lowe Post podcast featuring ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski. Late last night, Lowe published an extensive look at the trade market at ESPN.com, following up on some of the scuttlebutt he shared in that podcast. While there are a few repeated items with Lowe’s piece, he also has plenty of new notes for us as Thursday’s trade deadline approaches. Let’s dive in…

  • Lowe views Marc Gasol as a target that would make sense for the Cavaliers if they’re willing to trade the Nets’ 2018 first-rounder. However, he notes that the Grizzlies seem satisfied to stand pat, and the two teams haven’t discussed Gasol. Rival executives also say that the Cavs continue to act as if they won’t trade the Brooklyn pick.
  • Outside of the teams already known to have expressed interest in DeAndre Jordan – such as the Rockets, Bucks, and Trail Blazers – the Wizards are another club that has looked into the Clippers center, says Lowe. However, despite investigating the market for Jordan, Washington hasn’t gained any momentum toward a deal.
  • Every Magic player except for Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac is “readily available,” sources tell Lowe. Most people around the league think that Elfrid Payton will be playing somewhere besides Orlando next season, Lowe adds.
  • As Lowe observes, Nuggets may not be able to afford Will Barton‘s next contract, but the team appears okay with holding onto him through the deadline and risking losing him for nothing this summer. Denver also remains on the lookout for point guards, having kicked the tires on Pacers backup Cory Joseph, per Lowe. However, potential targets like Joseph and Garrett Temple may not be viable due to the guaranteed 2018/19 money on their contracts.
  • The Sixers are approaching the trade deadline as buyers, but no longer have as many extra first-round draft picks as they’ve had in recent years, so they may only willing to dangle second-rounders, says Lowe.
  • According to Lowe, the Timberwolves have been very cautious about discussing the 2018 first-rounder they’ll get from the Thunder, since they recognize they’ll need cheap players to fill out the roster as Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns get very expensive.
  • The Warriors remain on the lookout for bench help — they inquired on Avery Bradley, but got nowhere, league sources tell Lowe.
  • The Heat don’t appear to have traction on any major deals, according to Lowe.

Pistons Rumors: Failed Trades, S. Johnson, Love

The Pistons had originally planned to approach this season’s trade deadline by aggressively pursuing upgrades on the wing, writes Jake Fischer of SI.com. League sources tell Fischer that Detroit looked into several potential trade candidates around the NBA, including Danny Green, Jordan Clarkson, Tyreke Evans, Rodney Hood, and Courtney Lee. The Magic also called to discuss a deal that would have included Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton, and Luke Kennard, per Fischer.

As a result of all that research and legwork on wing players, the Pistons came to a realization that prompted them to change direction. “It’s becoming a wing league, and not many teams are willing to move those players,” a Pistons source told Fischer. “We were willing to give up ours.”

Rather than looking to build up on their own wing depth, the Pistons decided to part with Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris in a deal that would bolster their frontcourt instead. It remains to be seen whether that approach will pay off, but the team will start to find out tonight, with Blake Griffin set to make his Pistons debut. “It’s time to make a run now,” one team source told Fischer, who notes that seven of Detroit’s eight remaining games before the All-Star break are at home.

Here’s more on the Pistons from Fischer:

  • The Pistons, who explored trading for Eric Bledsoe last summer, circled back to him in November and came “within inches” of acquiring him in a three-way deal with the Suns and Pelicans, according to Fischer. That trade, which would have included Reggie Jackson, fell through.
  • The Pistons will continue to keep an eye out for opportunities to acquire wing players, and Fischer hints that Stanley Johnson is more likely than Kennard to be included in such a deal.
  • Detroit’s front office worked with Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank and GM Michael Winger on the Griffin deal. Head coach Doc Rivers, who served as the Clippers’ head of basketball operations until this past offseason, didn’t find out about the deal until Sunday — by that point, every detail except the first-round pick protections had already been agreed upon, a league source tells Fischer.
  • If the Pistons had been unable to finalize a deal for Griffin, they were planning to shift their focus to Kevin Love, says Fischer. Obviously, that was before Love suffered his hand injury, though there’s no indication that the Cavaliers would have seriously considered moving him.