Elfrid Payton is a physical specimen who has perfect size for the point guard position with a wingspan of 6’8 on top of his 6’4 height. And while he’s not an athletic freak, he’s certainly above average and has the quickness to stay with all but the fastest point guards in the NBA. His long stride helps him in transition and get into the lane in the half court.
He’s also an excellent hall handler and very good passer, understanding when and where to get his teammates the ball. He’s a true point guard who is unselfish almost to a fault.
One of his biggest strengths is his defense and defensive potential. He’s certainly got the size and length, but his quick hands and feet can make him a menace on defense, where he can hound opponents and deflect passes and dribbles. In fact, on defense, he’s got a lot of similarities to Gary Payton and has, at least, the potential to come close to that level defensively in the NBA.
Payton even averaged 19.3 ppg, but that was mostly due to the fact he played on such a small college team in a conference that isn’t very competitive. In truth, Payton will likely struggle to score, in the NBA, because he can’t shoot beyond ten feet and is only an average finisher around the hoop.
Let’s be clear, shooting is a major weakness for Payton and one of the main reasons he’s slated to be available when the Raptors draft 20th. He’s got an awkward stance, generally isn’t even close to being square to the hoop when he shoots, his right foot is far too ahead of his left, and the fact that he shot less than 60% from the line tells you something about his ability to shoot the ball.
Payton is also not the most aggressive player on the offensive end, far too willing to defer to teammates and not using his ability to get by his man nearly enough. That’s not to say he’s a lazy player. He’s not. But while he has a lot in common with Gary Payton on defense, he lacks the Hall of Famer’s aggressiveness on offense (although Gary was a poor shooter in his early years in the NBA).
The younger Payton is also incredibly turnover prone, which is partly a product of his passiveness on offense, but also his tendency to be careless with the ball.
Obviously the biggest problem with Payton is his shot, but shooting is one of the easiest skills to learn after a player enters the NBA. Many players have come into the NBA without an ability to shoot well and become above average shooters. The two main things that a player needs is a good shooting coach and work ethic. In fact, in pre-draft workouts, Payton seems to have a bit of a smoother, better looking stroke than in college.
Payton’s strengths, and the fact that none of his weaknesses are fatal flaws, is why the Raptors should put him high on their list of draft prospects. Few mock drafts have him being picked before 20, so he should be available at 20. He’s got excellent potential and would allow the Raptors insurance and a cheap option at the point guard position, with no point guards guaranteed to return next season. He could end up being a huge sleeper, should he be able to acquire some sort of jumpshot.