There is usually a clear signal when the Orlando Magic are playing well. It does not take long to look at the box score to find that key missing ingredient or to watch a game and know something is different.
When young reserve point guard Elfrid Payton is playing well, the Magic are typically a much better team. The former 10th overall pick, who lost his starting spot but still plays the most minutes at point guard, is the key to the success for Orlando, which hosts the Atlanta Hawks at the Amway Center on Wednesday.
“He’s competing,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said about his young point guard last week. “It’s my job to figure out if it’s best to keep him where he is where he is having great success or move him back to the starting lineup.
Article continues below ...
“I would like to see him do this over a consistent stretch. And I may still keep him where it’s at because he has had success there.”
Payton, known for his passing ability more than anything else, has always been a bit difficult to figure out. He is averaging a career-best 11.4 points per game and dishing out 5.9 assists per game, but his shooting remains a concern.
Payton is shooting 45.3 percent from the floor but just 25.9 percent from beyond the arc. His two-point percentages have improved dramatically, making him a better offensive threat, but his play is still largely inconsistent.
In wins, Payton’s play is significantly better. He averages 13.7 points per game and 7.1 assists per game. He makes 51.4 percent of his field goals and 39.0 percent of his 3-pointers in wins. That includes scoring a career-high 26 points, dishing out 14 assists and making 9 of 12 shots in an 11-point win over the Hawks in mid-December.
As the point guard controlling the tempo and aggression for the team, no player probably has more effect over the Magic than Payton and the production he accumulates.
The same might be said of Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder.
Like Payton, Schroder came into the league known more for his defense and less for his shooting. The Hawks, though, turned the team over to their young point guard this season after trading longtime starter Jeff Teague.
Schroder is averaging a career-high 17.5 points and 6.3 assists per game thanks to the increased role. He is making 46.3 percent of his shots and 35.5 percent from beyond the arc, both career highs too.
In wins, Schroder averages 19.3 points per game and 6.2 assists per game while making 49.0 percent of his shots and 46.2 percent of his 3-pointers. Schroder also has a massive effect when he gets his offense going. That was proven in the Hawks’ overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
“I just try to help the team win games,” Schroder told Hawks.com after a recent overtime win over the New York Knicks. “I try to lead the team. Whatever it takes, I try to do it and try to help my teammates out.”
Schroder has done a good job leading the Hawks, putting them in good position in the already crowded Eastern Conference. His game already has taken itself to a new level.
Both the Magic and the Hawks are clearly better when their young point guards play at their best. All eyes will be on them Wednesday.