Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a rotating panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic. Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Joe Kaiser and Kyle Soppe, plus DFS expert Renee Miller.
Elfrid Payton messed around and got a triple-double Monday for the third time In his past five games. He also is shooting 53.2 FG% and 80.0 FT% this month. How much do you believe in Payton, available in nearly a quarter of ESPN leagues, continuing to produce at this level the rest of the season and beyond?
Kyle Soppe: I don't think Oscar Robertson (and Russell Westbrook) have to worry about Payton averaging a triple-double, and he's overachieving a bit, but there is absolutely no reason for him to not be universally owned. Among point guards, there are three players who rank in the top 20 in both assist rate and rebound rate while averaging at least 10 points per game: Chris Paul, Jeff Teague, and Payton.
You have to love the versatility -- he has averaged more than nine rebounds-plus-assists in every month but February this season -- and I think the scoring is reasonably stable due to his willingness to attack the rim (58 percent of his shots come inside of eight feet). His low usage rate (26th among point guards) is a concern, when it comes to expecting consistency, but if he is hanging around your waiver wire --please, that's easy money in the most critical time of your fantasy hoops season.
Joe Kaiser: For a young point guard like Payton, who came into the league with lots of questions about his lack of shooting, his recent rise has to serve as an enormous confidence booster going forward. He knows that he belongs in this league, and the three triple-doubles give him -- and all of us- - reason to believe that he's taken his game to another level. I do believe in Payton for the rest of this season, and really the only thing holding him back right now in fantasy is a 3-point shot. He's shooting just 25.8 percent from long range this season, connecting on 0.5 3PG.
Payton will still be 23 when he enters his fourth NBA season in 2017-18, and this late-season rise puts him in top-50 territory -- which is rare these days for point guards who don't make 3s. If Payton manages to improve from beyond the arc while continuing to make an impact as a scorer, rebounder, passer and defender, his ceiling could even be in the top 40. That's not something I expected to write this season, so good for Payton to show marked improvement across the board.
Renee Miller: There's no doubt in my mind that Payton should be 100 percent owned in season-long fantasy leagues -- and that should have been the case prior to his first triple-double in any reasonably sized league. That said, the three recent triple-doubles are significant and may be indicators of his future potential.
Ironically, he's a player who is fun for DFS right now, thanks to the enemy of season-long fantasy: inconsistency. You're able to take advantage of his big games on a lower salary, thanks to the risk he also represents. This is still a young player on a bad team, and interspersed between the big games were games in which he scored single-digit points or recorded just two rebounds. On the season, Payton has averaged 12.4 points, 6 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game -- solid but not over-the-top amazing. Notably, he has played 5-7 minutes more in his big games than he typically does.
Playing for a bad team matters for a few reasons. For one, the Magic are pretty slow -- they rank 19th in pace, not to mention 29th in offensive efficiency (101 points per 100 possessions) and 23rd in defensive efficiency. He's not yet dangerous enough to get to the foul line very often -- he averages just 2.4 free throw attempts per game, and worse, makes them just 68 percent of the time. That is something he needs to work on if he's to maintain and build up to a consistently higher scoring pace.
He's also got a good frontcourt in Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon competing for rebounds most of the time, which should limit his trip-dub potential. One of Payton's strengths is his assist ratio, which is already higher than expected (29.8) and one thing I really look for in sustainable value. The bottom line is this is a player to keep in your sights. I think there will be more ups and downs with him, but ultimately, he profiles as someone who can be great for years to come.