With all the second-tier free-agent signees the Knicks brought in this offseason, the Magic's Aaron Gordon has one that he hopes thrives in particular.
Elfrid Payton was sort of a under-the-radar signee with the likes of Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, and Bobby Portis joining the team as well. The Knicks already have Dennis Smith Jr. as well as Allonzo Trier, whose looking to follow up his stellar rookie season. And Frank Ntilikina is still looking to show the Knicks he was worthy of their first-round selection two years ago.
So it will be a battle to get solid minutes on the floor, let alone start for another former first-rounder in Payton. But Gordon, who was drafted just six picks ahead of Payton to the same Magic team, knows exactly what the point guard can bring to New York this season.
"EP is a helluva player, helluva ballplayer. But even better person," Gordon told SNY's Ian Begley at the NBPA/Five-Star Camp at Basketball City on Monday.
"So you guys got an even better person than he is a ballplayer, and that's saying a lot," Gordon said. "Because he's a great ballplayer. He can get better and better. He's going to be in this league for a long time."
Payton has already bounced around the league. Two seasons ago, he was traded to the Suns after spending half the season with the Magic. Then, he made his way back home to Louisiana, joining the Pelicans. It was there that he posted his career-high in assists at 7.6 per game with 10.6 points and 5.2 rebounds mixed in as well.
Coming over to the Knicks, Payton has a pretty good connection in GM Scott Perry. Perry drafted Payton along with Gordon, and saw first hand what he was able to give his Magic before making his way to the Kings.
Gordon believes that will work in his favor, along with his ability to play well under pressure.
"It's big," Gordon said about his chances with the Knicks. "Scott Perry is one of the guys who was with us in Orlando, so he's gonna have an opportunity to really show and improve. And he's tough. EP's tough as nails, so, he's not gonna get rattled easily."
Payton's going to need that aggressive mindset during training camp to make a good first impression on head coach David Fizdale. Being a solid defensive player, Fizdale may like Payton from the get-go with his added emphasis on that side of the ball. Begley has also reported that Payton will get every chance to win the starting job along with the rest of the point guards.
No matter what, though, Gordon already knows Payton will be giving it his all when he hits the hardwood. It's how he's built.
"He plays hard every day. Every time he plays, he plays hard," Gordon noted. "He's thorough man. He was born and raised like that."
Payton signed a two-year, $16 million deal with a club option for the 2020 season, so he'll be sure to bring that mentality if he wants to stay in New York next year.