NBA Summer League Recap: Elfrid Payton is the coolest rookie in the new NBA class

No disrespect to Andrew Wiggins, who can fly like a young T-Mac and defend like (maybe?) a future Scottie Pippen.

No disrespect to Jabari Parker, who can score like Carmelo and is our pick to win the Rookie of the Year award next season.

Nothing against Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon, or any of the other mega-prospects who will likely be lighting up the league for the next 10 years.


Payton messed around and nearly got a triple-double on Monday. (AP Photo)

But Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton is the coolest player in the new rookie class.

It’s not just his hair, which is perfect for his Louisiana roots and makes him look like an awesome, even more Rasta version of Sideshow Bob.

It’s not just the fact that he went to Louisiana-Lafayette (the Ragin’ Cajuns!), a cool team in a small conference that he almost single-handedly carried to the Big Dance this past March.

Nope, it’s his soft-spoken, grown-man game that makes him the man, the one that has been on full display in the NBA Summer League.

Payton lit up the Houston Rockets’ summer league squad on Monday, going for 12 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds in Orlando’s 87-69 win.

He shook defenders with a killer crossover move, broke away for a couple of effortlessly athletic dunks, and harassed the living hell out of whoever brought the ball up the court for the Rockets.

Payton followed that up with a plus-12 performance on Tuesday against the Grizz, putting up 6 points, 3 assists and 2 steals.

With his long, 6-4 frame and boundless energy, the 20-year old is going to be a hassle on the defensive end for the Magic. He and last year’s No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo have the potential to be one of the peskiest defensive backcourts in the league.

“We just talk about getting better, each and every day,” Payton told NBA TV’s Matt Winer and Isiah Thomas after Monday’s game. “Working hard, and playing defense. Defense is what is going to win us games,” Payton said.

Thomas had high praise for him during the broadcast, saying, “Payton is good, man. I mean, Payton is just really, really good. Everything about him is just solid.”

Regardless of how Elfrid plays during the rest of his time at Summer League, it sure looks like he’s going to have a major impact on the Magic next season.

He may not be Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, or even Dante Exum.

But Payton remains the most dangerous under-the-radar rookie coming into the league next season.

And that’s pretty cool.

Related: Elfrid Payton leads Louisiana-Lafayette to NCAA Tournament

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