This year’s draft class is one of the best in recent memory not only due to the superior talent at the top but also the amount of quality depth. There is no doubt that there will be multiple players drafted outside the top 14 selections in this year’s NBA Draft who will have an impact in the league next season.
A relatively unknown to the world before the NCAA Tournament, Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton has skyrocketed up draft boards over the past two months. Payton’s rare size and athleticism at his position has caught the eye of more than a few NBA general managers. His speed, craftiness and length (6-foot-8 wingspan) make him a devastating defender at the point guard position, as well as a gifted penetrator and finisher at the rim.
Although his talent and upside is tremendous, Payton struggles with his jump shot outside of 15 feet. Along with improving on the court, Payton needs to add strength and weight to his skinny frame (6-foot-4, 185-pounds) in order to continue his success as a defender and finisher at the next level. Payton refused to participate in drills at the combine, which may have sent up some red flags for some around the league, but he reportedly performed well in all of his interviews.
Payton will certainly be in play for both of the Chicago Bulls‘ selections in the first round. He is a tenacious defender who could have a similar (obviously not as potent) offensive role as Derrick Rose by creating off the dribble and penetrating into the lane. He could play behind Rose and allow the offense not to change dramatically while Rose is off the floor. Payton’s defensive length and quickness is certainly something coach Tom Thibodeau would love to add to his backcourt depth, and with two All-Defensive Team players on the current roster, what better way for Payton to learn and transition to the next level.
Payton reminds me of a young Rajon Rando for the Boston Celtics — a gifted athlete with great court vision and ball skills who lacks the ability to be an effective scorer outside of the painted area. Payton is one of those players who needs to be drafted by the right franchise to reach his full potential. Like for Rondo, a good coach and solid locker room in place is imperative for Payton to continue to grow as a player. I think it’s safe to say that if Rondo was taken two picks earlier in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings, his career would be in a much different place. I am hoping the right team drafts Payton, even if it means getting passed over and going later in the draft.
During his junior year with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Payton averaged 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Against Creighton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Payton scored 20 points and recorded eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks. Payton also wowed NBA scouts last summer playing with the USA under-19 Team.