Elfrid Payton was a former draft pick of the Orlando Magic during Scott Perry’s front office tenure in central Florida.
Elfrid Payton has signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the New York Knicks, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports.
SNY’s Ian Begley adds Payton’s, like New York’s other two-year-deal free-agent signings, contract has a team option on its second year.
Payton last played for the New Orleans Pelicans, where he averaged 10.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game in 42 appearances—all starts—and 29.8 minutes per game. He shot 43.4% from the field, 31.4% from deep, and 74.3% from the free throw line during the 2018–19 season.
He’s also a former Scott Perry draft pick; the current Knicks general manager was a part of the Orlando Magic’s front office, as assistant GM, when the Florida franchise drafted Payton with the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Payton played three seasons of college ball at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette prior to declaring for the draft.
Before his one-season stint with New Orleans, Payton was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2018 for a second-round pick. Payton only competed in 19 games with Phoenix before signing as a free agent last summer with the Pelicans.
With recent free-agent signing Julius Randle, the Knicks have a Pelicans connection with Payton. Power forward Randle and point guard Payton spent 802 minutes on the floor together last season, per NBA Stats.
Payton is not particularly known for his shooting ability. He’s a fine distributor and shot creator for his teammates, but he struggles finding the bottom of the net on his own shot attempts. 70.9% of Payton’s field goal attempts last season were between 0-10 feet of the basket. Another 25.5% of his attempts from the floor were behind the three-point arc, where he struggled to connect from long distance—only converting on 31.4% of triples.
The addition of Payton portends to be bad news for former Knicks lottery pick Frank Ntilikina, a defensive guard of no position who was selected by New York with the eighth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but under a different regime. Ntilikina was a then-president Phil Jackson draft pick prior to the “Zen Master”s ousting, although Steve Mills, then-general manager, remains with the team.
Last season GM Perry brought in another former Magic draft pick during his tenure there—Mario Hezonja, who has since entered free agency and signed with the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Payton signing is the sixth free agent inked by Perry and the Knicks’ front office this offseason; New York has also signed Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis, Reggie Bullock, and Wayne Ellington to fill out a weak roster mostly comprised of young talent like Dennis Smith Jr., R.J. Barrett, Kevin Knox, and Mitchell Robinson. Other contributors on the Knicks at the moment include Damyean Dotson, Allonzo Trier, Kadeem Allen, second-round selection Ignas Brazdeikis, and the aforementioned Ntilikina, whose days appear numbered due to speculation that the current front office’s affinity has soured for the French citizen.
Payton has averaged 11.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game in 342 career appearances, shooting 45.4% from the field, 30.2% from three-point range, and 63% from the charity stripe.
The Knicks are likely nearly through with free agency, with approximately $3.5 million in cap space available to spend, likely to be spent on a veteran minimum deal.