2018-19 SEASON STATS
Listen to Jim Eichenhofer & Daniel Sallerson's Review of Elfrid Payton's 2018-19 Performance
When Payton recently looked back at his first season playing for his hometown NBA franchise, it’s no surprise that the phrase “what could have been” was a prominent part of his description. As was the case for the Pelicans as a team, it’s difficult to look back at ’18-19 without reflecting on unfulfilled potential. “Bittersweet is the word I would use,” Payton said. “We showed flashes of what could have been, but unfortunately with injuries and things like that, we weren’t able to put it all together.”
The sky seemed to be the limit when the New Orleans native helped lead the Pelicans to a 4-0 start, highlighted by an ESPN-broadcast rout at Houston in the season opener. But Payton left the season’s fifth game vs. Utah due to injury, then ended up missing 31 of the next 32 games (he broke a finger Nov. 16 vs. New York, just eight minutes of playing time into his return from injury). By the time he got back on the floor from that ailment on New Year’s Eve, the Pelicans were just 16-21. He was again sidelined for nine straight games from Jan. 29-Feb. 14, the third separate segment of sitting for at least that many contests.
“It was very difficult. This was the first time I’ve missed this many games with injuries,” said Payton, who twice play all 82 games in a season for Orlando. “Any time you were playing well, something would happen.”
Payton’s top individual highlight occurred in March, when he set a franchise record with five consecutive triple-doubles, displaying his versatility by scoring, rebounding and passing. He handed double-digit assists 13 times in the 26 instances where he logged at least 29 minutes. “The way he passes the ball, everyone saw it,” Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said. “It’s elite. To be able to go out there and have four or five straight triple-doubles is crazy. I just wish I could have had more time to play with him.”
“I definitely think I showed that I became a better player this season, despite not playing many games,” Payton said recently. “It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t more, but I definitely feel like I got better.”
For the second straight summer, Payton will be an unrestricted free agent July 1, meaning he can sign with any NBA team. He’d prefer to continue calling the Smoothie King Center his homecourt, just a few miles across the Mississippi River from where he grew up in Gretna.
“Honestly, I would love to be here. It’s home for me,” he said. “It was great playing in front of family and fans, being home. I really didn’t have any expectations for it, but it was amazing. I think everyone should try it, if they get a chance to play at home. I definitely want to be back, if given the opportunity.”
BY THE NUMBERS
New Orleans road record in games Payton played in ’18-19. The Pelicans were just 5-17 on the road without their starting point guard.
New Orleans overall record when both Payton and Holiday played. The Pelicans were just 18-37 without one of their starting guards.
Pelicans losing streaks during ’18-19 that lasted four-plus games. Payton was sidelined for every game during the first three skids (New Orleans went a combined 0-15 in those, including 12 road defeats).
Top 20 Elfrid Payton Photos from the Pelicans 2018-19 Season VIEW GALLERY