NY Knicks: In defense of Elfrid Payton

Elfrid Payton, NY Knicks (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Elfrid Payton, NY Knicks (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The 2020-2021 NBA season has been an absolute blast for both the NY Knicks and their fans. The team is having their best season since 2013 when they made it to the second round of the playoffs and a star has finally seemingly emerged in 26-year-old power forward Julius Randle.

The team is likable, and everyone has seemingly grown attached to every player individually; well, maybe with one exception. With the stellar play from veteran point guard Derrick Rose and rookie Immanuel Quickley, Knicks fans across the globe have been passionately demanding the removal of second-year Knick Elfrid Payton.

While I can sympathize with wanting Rose to start over Payton, I do believe it’s very unfair to overwhelm him with so much hate. In this piece I’m going to provide both stats and descriptions in regard we cannot deem Elfrid Payton’s time with the New York Knicks a failure. Elf haters, please stay with me on this one.

NY Knicks: Elfrid Payton in a limited role and playing to his strengths.

While I comprehend the frustration put on display by fans when Elfrid is announced in the starting lineup. However, it needs to be understood that over the last ten games, Payton has played over 20 minutes just once. His role is diminished. Along with this, Derrick Rose has been playing significantly more minutes every night.

A lot of fans seem to think that Tom Thibodeau doesn’t acknowledge who the more productive player has been. Rose finishes games and takes more shots. Despite this, I seemingly think Payton gets so much hate just because he starts. I think fans need to care more about who’s running the point with five minutes to go rather than who’s out there for the opening tip.

In addition, I understand that turnovers are a problem. This season Elfrid averages 1.7 turnovers per game and has seven in the last three games. In the loss to the Phoenix Suns, however, he had 0 in his 14 minutes and 47 seconds. In regard to turnovers, I personally believe they’re just something fans like to point out when they want to dismantle the play of Payton.

I agree that sometimes he tries to do too much and play ‘above’ his game. I don’t like when he shoots the three-ball and tries to make cross-court passes. 1000%. But it’s just unfair to ignore the good things he’s done this season. In 2.6 fewer minutes than he had last season, Payton averages 11.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.8 steals and has improved his free throw percentage from 57% to almost 69%.

Do me a favor here and don’t think of Elfrid as a legitimate starting point guard. That’s not really his role on the NY Knicks. Elf’s role is to spark the starters at the start of the game, score a few points, and play some minutes in the second half. Like I said earlier, Tom Thibodeau has consistently played Rose and Quickley in the waning minutes of games because they’re simply more effective; but, Payton’s tough defense and good all-around stats make it unfair to call him a scrub. It’s time to accept him as part of the ‘Big 15.’

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