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.”