Why the New York Knicks should keep Elfrid Payton.
Elfrid Payton should be the starting point for the New York Knicks next season. His presence in the lineup must be a top priority for Leon Rose, as he decides whether to waive the 26-year-old guard before his $8 million salary becomes guaranteed next season. Elfrid’s skillset, leadership and character make him a perfect fit to lead a young team.
What Payton doesn’t do well, shoot, might be a blessing. His young floormates will not feel the need to defer to him, as they apparently did with Julius Randle. When a shot presents itself, they will take it without hesitation. This will be important for the young group of Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Ignas Brazdeikis and the 2020 draftees to build confidence in their shooting abilities.
Of even greater benefit are all the things that Payton does well. His 52.4 percent assist rate on 7.2 assists per game (11th best) was accomplished with a usage rate of 19 percent (187th), while playing with two ball hogs and a cast of poor shooters. His combined low usage, low turnover and high assist rates were a league best. Chris Paul was second. Quite remarkable.
Intangibles are exactly that. They can’t be measured, quantified and analyzed statistically. Evaluating intangibles is accomplished by the “eye” test. It can be argued that Elfrid Payton is a spirited leader with a quiet toughness that ramps up when the occasion calls for a more demonstrative approach. He has been ejected at least twice for fighting (NBA style, really just shoving). In both games, Payton had a triple double. Elfrid is an energetic defender and has averaged 1.3 steals for his career.
LaMelo Ball is considered a generational player by some, but no one presents him as a player who can shoot the J or has any interest in playing defense. Killian Hayes is weak going to his right and usually gives up the ball when his left is taken away. He is also an inconsistent outside shooter. Halliburton is the best of the three.
The Knicks need to upgrade the entire roster, so the best players available in the draft should be selected, regardless of position. The only Knick to be named to the Athletic’s Top 125 players was Mitchell Robinson. All the hopes we have that RJ Barrett will turn out to be a star player are dreams that have yet to come true. Even with RJ, if Isaac Okoro is available, the Knicks should take him ahead of the point guards listed above.
Keeping Payton on the roster allows the Knicks flexibility in their roster decisions this offseason. He fills the void at point guard. Remember, Payton’s 17 triple doubles are 10th among active players. At 27 years old, he is still in his prime. This productive, unselfish, high character lead guard is the floor leader the Knicks need to guide their youth movement in the right direction.