In a recent NBA rumors and intel article, HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto reported that the Charlotte Hornets have worked out veteran point guard Elfrid Payton.
Payton, who also recently worked out for the Minnesota Timberwolves, is 29 years old and holds career averages of 10.1 points, 4 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game. Across eight NBA seasons, he’s appeared in 500 games for four different teams after being picked 10th in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic.
Last season, Payton played in 10 games for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. He put up 7.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6 assists per game for the Indiana Pacers’ G League affiliate. Payton departed the team in the spring to sign with Osos de Manatí of Puerto Rico’s Baloncesto Superior Nacional but never played in a game for the team.
Armed with an open spot on the 15-man roster, Charlotte can offer a contract guaranteed for at least a portion of the regular season while Minnesota is limited to offering non-guaranteed and Exhibit 10 contracts. The Hornets also have fewer guards blocking him on the depth chart; only LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier would be in Payton’s way of earning playing time, whereas the Wolves have Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Shake Milton and Jordan McLaughlin.
From a fit perspective, Payton is an ideal option among the remaining free-agent point guard crop. There aren’t many ball-handlers with his combination of length, playmaking and activity on the glass. His overall floor game made a sharp decline when he went to Phoenix in 2021-22 and he’s always a career 28.7 percent 3-point shooter, but the Hornets regained a lot of firepower this summer. A lack of spacing with Payton as the lead guard shouldn’t clog up the offense in the way Dennis Smith Jr.’s shooting inefficiencies did last year.
As recently as 2020-21 with New York, Payton averaged 10/3/3 on 43 percent shooting, playing 23.6 minutes in 63 games as the Knicks’ starting point guard. That team went 41-31 before losing in the first round to Atlanta in that legendary Trae Young vs. The City of New York series. If Steve Clifford can recapture a fraction of that performance, Payton would make a solid third guard for the Hornets.
The search for a veteran backup point guard rages on.