New Orleans Pelicans: Is Elfrid Payton a Downgrade From Rajon Rondo?

Will Elfrid Payton be a downgrade for the New Orleans Pelicans?

Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, Rajon Rondo
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

When guard Elfrid Payton signed a one-year deal with the Pelicans this past July, the team remained hopeful they could retain Rajon Rondo.

That is, until Rondo bolted for Los Angeles to be part of one of the wackiest Lakers offseasons in some time.

So, rather than position the so-far disappointing 24-year-old Payton as a backup behind a veteran leader, the Pelicans could likely launch him directly back into a starting role alongside Pelicans’ star Jrue Holiday.

Throughout Payton’s first four NBA seasons, he has garnered comparisons to the man he will be replacing. Usually when a player is in conversation with a four-time All-Star and NBA Champion, this means only good news. For Payton though, these likenesses have been for all the wrong reasons.

They are pass-first point guards who can’t shoot. And in today’s NBA where floor spacing and shot-making is at a premium, being a primary ball-handler with a broken jumper is a fast-track out of the league.

Both were once known for being lockdown defenders: Rondo as a four-time All-Defensive player and 2009-10 steals champion. Payton as a Lefty Driessel Award winner during his junior year at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Now, Rondo gets viewed with a critical eye for his defense. And Payton can become too aggressive searching for steals and give away easy buckets to his competition.

Even with their similarities, Rondo had the much better season. He played a significant starting role on a New Orleans team that went 48-34 and upset the third-seeded Portland Trailblazers in the first round of this year’s playoffs.

Payton, on the other hand, was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Phoenix Suns at the deadline for a paltry 2018 second round pick. His Magic team went nowhere fast, ending with a 25-57 record. The Suns went nowhere even faster, going 21-61.

This disparity in team success begs the question: Will Elfrid Payton hurt this New Orleans team next season, or will he finally find a context that better suits his game?

Next Up: Comparing Their Offensive Production

About Doug Patrick 8 Articles
Doug Patrick is a kindergarten teacher in Greenwich, CT. You can find his NBA writing on and, where he is a site co-expert. He is also always available to podcast, just please don't send him automated updates from the gametakesapp via Twitter - it drives him mad.


  1. You hit on a lot of statistical points but you missed the fact that Payton has had success offensively when playing in a fast paced offense such as the Pels.He has never played for a team with the consistently quick pace of play that they play with. They dont need him to be Rondo and barring an absolute meltdown on his part he will start. Especially considering the recent signings the pels have made.

  2. yes Rondo finding a home here in Los Angeles will be a huge downgrade for the Pels in my opinion… we saw the respect A.D. had for the man… Rondo made Holiday look spectacular playing an off the ball in roll which I don’t think he’s ever done before, Davis also had an easier time scoring when Rondo was on the court during that playoff run and the attitude / toughness Rondo brought is something I’ve never seen in Payton… while on paper / stat-wise it might not look like much but the impact will be felt in many ways that can’t be seen on the stat sheet… real happy Rondo is a Laker

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