That is the one similar trait that has equaled success for both Elfrid Payton and new Magic coach Frank Vogel. One trait that both men have perfected and executed at the highest of levels.
Now they are on the same side, and the possibilities are exciting.
Payton's tenacious defense is what got him taken with the 10th overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. Now, with Frank Vogel at the helm of the Magic, Payton's skill set will be able to stand out more at the NBA level.
Payton's steals numbers have been a bit underwhelming so far, despite his smothering on-ball defense. But you can expect that to change. Payton is now surrounded with other top-tier defenders like Aaron Gordon, Serge Ibaka, and Bismack Biyombo. This will allow him to take some more gambles in going for steals and creating turnovers, with much less risk of surrendering points because of it.
Vogel now has the defensive-minded ace at point guard that he never had before in Indiana. Payton has the size at 6-3 to bully opposing guards, whether it be point or shooting guards. The Pacers that Vogel coached do not have the athletes that the Magic do, he had Paul George but not much else from an athleticism standpoint. Now with Payton, Gordon, Ibaka, and Biyombo, the defense will have a different element than it did in Indiana.
The Indiana D under Vogel was stiff and tough, but this Magic defense can be more based on aggression and pressure. Two elements that helped Elfrid Payton make his name.
It's scary to imagine what this defense will look and play like. And Payton will lead the charge, as ball handlers won't have one second to breath under his watch.
This is the big question mark when talking about Elfrid Payton, Frank Vogel, and the Orlando Magic as a whole. Will they be able to score enough to win games? I don't know, but Elfrid Payton could see an uptick in his production with his new coach.
Frank Vogel seemed to play a significant role in helping develop the superstar that is Paul George in Indiana, a guy who was more of a defensive specialist, with offensive limitations in his first season. Who's to say that Payton can't increase his offensive output in year three, as well? I'm not saying that Payton is going to rise like George did and become an All-Star, but it is reasonable to expect his offensive game to step up this year.
Payton saw his scoring average climb slightly from year one to year two, as it went from 8.9 to 10.7 points per game. He was also more efficient last season as he increased his 3-point percentage from 26% to 33%. If Payton can continue to polish that aspect a little more as he did last season, then we will see him as a much more effective offensive player. The ability to space the floor is a huge threat in today's NBA and if he can shoot around 37%, then he will be an effective floor spacer for a team that needs it.
The glaring weakness with Payton, though, is his abysmal free throw shooting.
Payton shot only 59% from the line last season, which is horrendous for a point guard. If Payton wants to stay on the floor in critical, late-game situations, then that aspect must be tightened up. But you have to think that free throws are first on Vogel's list when it comes to coaching Payton. Vogel is a proven winner in the NBA and could easily help fix Payton's free throw shot, which would allow him the opportunity to play Payton in late-game situations.
Elfrid Payton is probably never going to be a big-time scoring threat in the NBA. But, if he continues his steady improvements, and with Vogel it seems likely, then he can easily be a guy who gives you 14 points and 7 assists per game.
Those who compared Elfrid Payton to Hall-of-Famer Gary Payton in the lead up to the draft were crazy. "The Glove" is a legend that very few, if any, players have been able to replicate.
But the younger Payton could have the look of another 90's standout in Mookie Blaylock. A guy who lead the NBA in steals in back-to-back seasons and used his hard-nosed, aggressive style to impose himself on opponents.
That is Payton's ceiling, used his physical and athletic gifts to will his way to success against his opponents. And now he has the coach that can bring that out of him.
Blaylock was an elite defensive point guard that could create with his ultra-aggressive play style. But if Frank Vogel can get Payton to take chances and play confidently, then having a career similar to Blaylock's is certainly within reach.