Elfrid Payton is on a great run right now, but will it stand as the turning point in his career and a sign he has figured it all out?
On Monday night, New Orleans Pelicans point guard Elfrid Payton reached some rare air. With 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds against the Dallas Mavericks, he joined Russell Westbrook, Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan as the only players to post five straight triple-doubles.
Since being drafted in 2014, and traded to the Orlando Magic on draft night, Payton has gotten more attention for his hairstyle than his play. After three-and-a-half seasons of mediocre play (11.1 points and 6.4 assists per game), Orlando traded him to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round pick before the 2018 deadline. The perpetually rebuilding Suns apparently saw enough over 19 games, or didn’t see enough actually, to really consider re-singing Payton last offseason.
Payton landed with the New Orleans Pelicans on a one-year, $3 million deal. He has missed significant time with a fractured left pinky and a sprained right ankle this season, but he has started all 33 games he’s played.
Payton’s numbers are obviously pretty good over the last five games, as he’s averaging 15.6 points, 12.8 assists and 11.8 rebounds per game. A boost in minutes over that stretch (36.1 per game) has coincided with Jrue Holiday’s absence due to an abdominal strain. As the Pelicans play out the season, Holiday should be officially shut down soon.
Since the All-Star break (14 games), when he returned from his ankle injury, Payton is averaging 12.1 points, 9.6 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game while playing a shade over 33 minutes per game.
Payton’s rate stats aren’t dramatically different from his season as a whole over his five-game run. However, he has been shooting more 3-pointers over that stretch (4.4 per game; 2.3 per game on the season), and making them at a slightly higher rate (36.4 percent; 35.5 percent on the season). Going back to the game before the triple-double run started, Payton has taken 4.5 3-pointers per game while making 40.7 percent over the last six contests.
Payton has a revenge game opportunity against the Magic Wednesday night, as he goes for a sixth straight triple-double.
The current sample of good play, widening to 14 games post-All-Star break, isn’t enough to say Payton has finally figured it all out. But it is encouraging, and he unbelievably only turned 25 less than a month ago.