Orlando Magic starting point guard: Elfrid Payton or D.J. Augustin?
A few weeks ago, Orlando Magic coach Frank Vogel decided to make a major change to the starting lineup. Vogel opted to go with D.J. Augustin as the team’s starting point guard. Thus, moving Elfrid Payton to the bench.
The Magic may have put themselves in a bind with this decision. Since his move to the bench, Payton has played well, while Augustin has struggled.
This has created a debate among those who follow the Magic. Who should start?
This debate is so interesting. Payton and Augustin are completely different players. What the Magic get with one, they do not get with the other.
At the moment, the Magic have been average since Augustin has been put in the starting lineup. With a 5-6 record since Augustin’s first start, the Magic have been a better team record-wise. Augustin has averaged 9.2 points and 3.4 assists per game as a starter this year.
But the record and stats only tell a fraction of the story. The Magic have come off a rough stretch of their schedule and did not completely fold. With the Magic sitting just outside the playoff picture, the team may look to continue riding the wave. Keeping Augustin on the floor can bring a lot of good to an oddly built team, despite whatever inconsistencies and struggles he has had to this point this season.
The Magic have come off a rough stretch of their schedule and did not completely fold. With the Magic sitting just outside the playoff picture, the team may look to continue riding the wave. Keeping Augustin on the floor can bring a lot of good to an oddly built team, despite whatever inconsistencies and struggles he has had to this point this season.
Augustin has spent most of his NBA career coming off the bench, but he has been a part of winning teams and brings consistency from the opening tip. The Magic are in win-now mode and cannot afford to have a young player who cannot string together solid outings.
When looking at the Magic’s opening lineup, having a shooter like Augustin is almost necessary. Augustin forces opposing guards to respect his shot and can help eliminate the threat of team’s packing the paint against Orlando’s talented big men. Augustin is shooting 40.8 percent from the floor this season, right at his career average.
In reality, the main reason why Augustin is starting is because of his offensive ability. Even when slashing to the basket, Augustin is crafty enough to score on the inside.
This offensive boost has allowed the Magic to stay in games early on. With Payton, if the defense was struggling in the first quarter, the offense would be extremely stagnant. Most of the time, players would be standing around and ball movement would be kept to a minimum.
With Augustin, the Magic have been able to hang around better teams early on and that has given them a better chance to win. Instead of having to claw back at halftime, the Magic are right with their opponent and it allows their defense to battle down the stretch.
With Augustin starting the game with the first team, Payton has been an absolute force coming off the bench. With his speed and ability to get to the basket, Payton has owned second team guards.
In December, Payton has been great coming off of the bench. He is averaging 10.8 points per game and 6.4 assists per game to go along with a 50 percent true shooting.
By the same token, Augustin has for the most part been playing poorly as the starter. During December, he has averaged 9.2 points per game and only 3.1 assists per game. He has played five fewer minutes per game than Payton, but the assists numbers are very concerning.
With Payton producing and Augustin struggling some, it would seem there is still some debate about who should ultimately start.
The Magic could see more offensive movement if Payton returns as the starter, as Payton loves to get other players involved. Payton’s jump shot is the biggest concern, but if this team can play defense well enough right from the opening tip, Payton’s offensive woes will not be as detrimental.
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As limited as Payton’s offensive game might be, he has shown flashes of being a really solid defender. Augustin has never been much of a defender. This is probably the biggest advantage Payton has over Augustin. Especially with Frank Vogel on the sidelines.
This is a true dilemma for Vogel. With a young player like Payton thriving on the bench and the Magic slowly improving, it is going to be a tough call to make whether to turn back to the Magic’s young point guard.
For now, Augustin should continue to start for a little bit longer. Payton has played pretty well of late, but throwing him back with the starters could cause problems. There is no reason to disrupt what is working for the Magic so far.
Earlier in the year, Orlando really struggled at the start of games, Payton’s offensive limitations play right into the hands of opposing defenses. Although Augustin may not be someone who provides a major scoring pop for the starters, opposing teams have to respect his game at the least.
Plus, Payton is tremendous coming off the bench. This should give him plenty of confidence. And if he can put up solid performances every night, then maybe he can force Vogel to move him to up in the rotation again. Certainly, that could give him more opportunities to finish games.
Things could change quickly if the Magic begin to struggle again.
The team still sits on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs and if the Magic start to slip further away Vogel could decide to mix things up again.
For now, it would be best to ride the wave and continue with the veteran Augustin to keep the starting role.
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