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Payton losing minutes -- and ground -- in rookie race

Rookie Ladder: Week 4

POSTED: Nov 19, 2014 10:05 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper

NBA.com

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Lineup changes have made Elfrid Payton the odd man out (for now) with the Magic.

In other painful developments for Magic rookies, Elfrid Payton went from losing fourth-quarter minutes even before Victor Oladipo returned to being pulled from the opening lineup nearly the instant Oladipo got healthy. That jarring reversal sent Payton from an encouraging start to his rookie season to barely a complementary role on the Magic.

When No. 4 pick Aaron Gordon fractured his foot Saturday at Washington, No. 10 choice Payton suffered a form of whiplash at almost the exact same time.

This wasn't simply Payton going from 30.3 minutes his first seven NBA games to 17.2 the last five. (All stats heading into Wednesday's schedule.) Payton got sloppy with the ball after 30 assists against 11 turnovers in his first four games and the Magic regularly benched him down the stretch in moves that had nothing to do with carving out minutes for Oladipo.

Payton played 23 minutes last Wednesday against the Knicks, was replaced by Luke Ridnour with 4:08 left in the third quarter. He stayed out of the game until the final 3.5 seconds, when he got back in the game to help protect a 97-95 lead.

Payton played 22 minutes Friday against the Bucks, including five in the fourth quarter. Oladipo logged 25 minutes off the bench after missing the start of the season with a fractured bone in his face.

On Saturday against the Wizards, Oladipo replaced Payton as the starting point in the same game Gordon -- an energy player off the bench thus far -- got hurt. Payton played six minutes, Ridnour 19 and Oladipo 32.

From starter to third string, from closer to watcher, from clean distributor to three assists or less in four of the last five games. Payton keeps a place on the Rookie Ladder -- what really matters around here -- just not for long at this rate.

1. Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks (Last week's ranking: 1)

Arena Link: Jabari Parker

Jabari Parker joins the show to discuss his progress as a rookie since the start of the season and what he needs to work on.

Coach Jason Kidd moved him again, switching Parker from small forward back to power forward on Sunday to give a Parker-Giannis Antetokounmpo starting lineup a look. While giving no indication that would be the permanent look, Kidd stayed with it Tuesday against the Knicks. Coincidence or not, Parker had solid showings both times to at least briefly solidify what had been a tenuous hold on the top spot.

2. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves (5)

Kia Awards: Andrew Wiggins

The Timberwolves' rookie, Andrew Wiggins is a nominee for the Kia Western Conference Rookie of the Month.

No longer the youngest Minnesota starter -- he is about 2 ½ weeks older than Zach LaVine -- Wiggins has also continued to mature in other ways. His week included going 15 of 29 in three games while averaging 13.3 ppg, moving him closer to the rookie scoring lead. Parker is at 10.7 points, Wiggins 10.6 and Bojan Bogdanovic 10.5.

3. Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets (7)

Bogdanovic is shooting 54.3 percent in his last five games, even with the zero for five Saturday at Portland, putting him at 47.6 percent overall while getting 30.5 minutes for a team with playoff aspirations. That leads all rookies in playing time. Bogdanovic has quickly gone from No. 7 in the opening Ladder to a legit threat for Rookie of the Year if he maintains that kind of role, and production, with Brooklyn.

4. K.J. McDaniels, Philadelphia 76ers (3)

Block of the Night - KJ McDaniels

KJ McDaniels rises up for a vicious rejection on Greivis Vasquez's shot.

McDaniels has cooled offensively, at seven of 20 overall the last three games and two of 10 behind the arc. Still, he continues to find other ways to impact the game with steals and blocking shots from the wing. Lately, he has had five rebounds each of the last two games, good production for a shooting guard in 16 and 24 minutes. Another plus? He's committed just two turnovers in the combined 40 minutes.

5. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers (4)

Noel has started rebounding again after the recent stretch of two games and 47 minutes with three boards. He's had seven, six and six rebounds in his last three outings. On the other hand, he's down to 33.3 percent (five of 15) from the line for the season ... because it is always possible to find the dark cloud in any 76er silver lining.

6. Dante Exum, Utah Jazz (6)

While the Jazz have done a good job of giving him a stable role from the beginning, mostly always playing Exum high-teens to low-20s in minutes, he has struggled to match the consistency. His shooting touch disappeared after an encouraging start and his ball handling got messy before he responded by going 5-for-9 from the field in his last two games.

7. Doug McDerMott, Chicago Bulls (9)

His role keeps changing, but McBuckets keeps producing. He has played 17, 15, five, five, 14 and 10 minutes in his last six games, and not having a solid spot in the rotation would usually lead to a Ladder benching as well. But McDermott has also shot 64.3 percent in the four outings with double-digit minutes, pushing him to 50 percent overall, third among rookies with significant playing time.

8. Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic (2)

Payton to Vucevic

Elfrid Payton hits Nikola Vucevic with a great lead pass for the bucket.

Maybe he'll find traction against opponent's second units. Or third. The Magic have four games in six days -- Clippers, Hornets, Heat, Cavaliers -- so at least Payton has a chance for a quick recovery.

9. Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic (8)

Block of the Night

Aaron Gordon gets the block on defense, and on the offensive end, gets the feed from Luke Ridnour for the jam.

He obviously doesn't figure to hold the spot much longer, but Gordon does have the best shooting percentage (58.1) among rookies who have had more than brief appearances, and he has only missed one game so far because of the foot injury. But Gordon won't just get kicked off the Ladder, especially not in a season when no rookie has separated themselves from the pack. Someone has to knock him off.

10. Tarik Black, Houston Rockets (not ranked)

Making the team was accomplishment enough after going undrafted out of Kansas, but Black followed that by producing on the boards while backing up Dwight Howard at center, a role that ordinarily does not lead to many opportunities. Black has at least six rebounds in three of the last four games despite playing 17, 13 and 20 minutes in the three.

Dropped out: Shabazz Napier (10).

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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