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20 Contract-Year Players to Watch in 2016-17

Lang Greene looks at 20 upcoming free agents who are entering a crucial contract year in 2016-17.

Lang Greene

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It’s never too early to start discussing the upcoming NBA free agency class. Outside of your standard restricted and unrestricted free agents, there are an abundance of guys who hold player options for the 2017-18 campaign. With the league’s salary cap expected to exceed $100 million next season, most of these players will choose to opt out in order to cash in and secure a more lucrative multi-year deal.

Today, we’ll take a look at some players who are entering an important contract-year. To make this list of upcoming free agents more interesting, we’ve excluded a host of current All-Stars such as Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Paul Millsap. Guys with an All-Star appearance last season or those who are considered elite players were purposely omitted since they will clearly be paid regardless of how they perform in their contract-year.

Even with the stricter criteria, there are still plenty of players whom fans should be watching closely as the season develops. Here are 20 contract-year players to watch (not in any particular order):

Zach Randolph, Forward, Memphis Grizzlies
2016-17 contract:
$10.3 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

Randolph is a throwback in every sense of the word. Yes, his back-to-the-basket game in the low post is an ode to yesteryear when the game was played at a slower pace. But there’s also a picture of a much younger Randolph floating around from when he shared the court with Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Randolph was a member of the Portland Trail Blazers with Pippen as a teammate and they were facing off against an aging Jordan, who was playing for the Washington Wizards. That’s old school.

But Randolph’s future is up in the air. The Grizzlies play an outdated style, have a quarter of a billion dollars invested in Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons and the team announced earlier this week that Randolph will permanently move into a sixth-man role. The veteran still has some gas left in the tank, but will he use all of his remaining fuel in Memphis?

Greg Monroe, Center, Milwaukee Bucks
2016-17 contract:
$17.1 million
Free Agency Status:
Player option for 2017-18

After reaching the playoffs during the 2014-15 season, the Bucks seemingly hit the jackpot the following summer by landing Monroe in free agency over large-market franchises that were also in pursuit of the veteran big man. However, Monroe’s first season in Milwaukee was filled with inconsistency, as the team missed the playoffs and his name was featured in plenty of trade rumors.

If things are shaky in year two, Monroe could look to free agency as an escape hatch.

Victor Oladipo, Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
2016-17 contract:
$6.5 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Thunder could opt to lock up Oladipo long-term prior to the extension deadline on Oct. 31, but the team would essentially be bidding against themselves in the process. However, there’s also a risk if Oklahoma City allows the talented guard to hit the market next summer as well. Oladipo scored 34 points in his Thunder preseason debut this week versus Real Madrid and has seemingly transitioned into his new situation well after being traded from the Orlando Magic this summer. The Thunder will be looking for a second scorer to step up alongside All-Star guard Russell Westbrook after former league MVP Kevin Durant’s departure, and Oladipo is a guy who could flirt with 20 points a night if given the green light.

Gordon Hayward, Forward, Utah Jazz
2016-17 contract:
$16.1 million
Free Agency Status:
Player option for 2017-18

Back in the summer, we wrote about the damage caused by restricted free agency. The piece followed up on restricted free agents who signed offer sheets only to have their offers matched by their current franchise. Guys such as Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Roy Hibbert, Marcin Gortat and Eric Gordon either bolted as soon as they had the opportunity or were traded before their respective deals expired.

Back in 2014, the Jazz matched Charlotte’s four-year, $63 million offer for Hayward. The forward is undoubtedly a key building block for Utah, but historically similar situations haven’t ended well. Keep an eye on this situation.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Guard, Detroit Pistons
2016-17 contract:
$3.7 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The jury is still out on Caldwell-Pope. The fourth-year guard continues to receive rave reviews from members of the Pistons coaching staff, but he’s also coming off a season in which he connected on just 31 percent of his three-point attempts (369). However, on the flip side, Caldwell-Pope has increased his scoring output every season and missed just eight games in his first three seasons. In 2016, Caldwell-Pope finished fourth in the league in average minutes per game (36.7). There will be suitors looking for a young guard, under 25, with starting and playoff experience next summer. Will the Pistons lock up Caldwell-Pope early or choose to see how the open market values his talent next July?

J.J. Redick, Guard, Los Angeles Clippers
2016-17 contract:
$7.4 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

The Clippers will more than likely be pre-occupied with re-signing All-Stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul next summer (both have player options). Each of those guys are going to command top dollar for their services, so will this provide an opposing team with an opportunity to swoop in and steal Redick from the Clippers? Redick led the league in three-point percentage (48 percent) in 2016 and will be in high demand if he can avoid injuries (only 11 games missed over the past two seasons).

Dennis Schroder, Guard, Atlanta Hawks
2016-17 contract:
$2.7 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Hawks traded away Jeff Teague, a former All-Star in his prime, in order to give Schroder an opportunity to be team’s floor general. That’s a strong vote of confidence from Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer and also a little motivation in a contract year for the fourth-year guard.

Nikola Mirotic, Forward, Chicago Bulls
2016-17 contract:
$5.8 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Bulls had a frontcourt logjam of sorts in 2016, but with Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol moving on in free agency, there should be more time for Mirotic to earn minutes. Last season, Mirotic played 30 or more minutes in only 14 of his 66 appearances. But the forward did improve his three-point accuracy from 32 percent in 2015 to 39 percent last season. With elite slashing guards Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade added to the Bulls’ mix, Mirotic will be counted on nightly from the perimeter. If he continues to knock down those shots, his value will skyrocket.

Zaza Pachulia, Center, Golden State Warriors
2016-17 contract:
$2.9 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

Pachulia turned down multiple eight-figure payday offers in order to pursue a ring with the Warriors. It was a calculated risk the veteran was willing to take in order to add championship hardware to his mantle.  But the Warriors will also have free agency decisions to make on Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant (player option), Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston next summer, meaning Pachulia’s time in the Bay Area could be a one-and-done experience if the money gets tight.

Steven Adams, Center, Oklahoma City Thunder
2016-17 contract:
$3.1 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The vast majority of NBA championship teams have guys on the roster who take pride in their blue-collar, bring-their-lunch-pail-to-work mentality.  Adams is the personification of this role-playing glue guy. From setting hard screens to delivering rough fouls to playing while hurt to his tenacious rebounding, the center will be an interesting name come free agency.

Jeff Teague, Guard, Atlanta Hawks
2016-17 contract:
$8 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

The Indiana Pacers wanted to add more offense and Teague provides a scoring upgrade over the departed George Hill at point guard. The former All-Star heads home, in a contract year, and will be given every opportunity to become All-Star forward Paul George’s chief sidekick.

Michael Beasley, Forward, Milwaukee Bucks
2016-17 contract:
$1.4 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

The Houston Rockets surprisingly traded Beasley prior to the start of the season. After Khris Middleton got hurt, Milwaukee was desperately seeking more offensive firepower. And for all of the criticism Beasley receives (and understandably so), there’s one thing everyone can agree on: the man can flat out score when given minutes.

P.J. Tucker, Forward, Phoenix Suns
2016-17 contract:
$5.3 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

Tucker, 31, could be a victim of the Suns’ ongoing youth movement. With rookies Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss looking to carve out minutes at forward, Warren’s presence and the team’s decision to sign veteran Jared Dudley to a $30 million deal this summer, all signs point to a crowded frontcourt in Phoenix. Will Tucker eventually become the odd man out?

Gorgui Dieng, Center, Minnesota Timberwolves
2016-17 contract:
$2.4 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Timberwolves will enter the season with plenty of hype and are predicted by many to be this year’s surprise team. But how long can the T’Wolves keep their young core together? Dieng’s impending free agency will be the front office’s first test in how much they’re willing to invest in seeing things through. Dieng is oozing with double-double potential, but the arrival of Karl-Anthony Towns did lead to a three-minute-per-game reduction in court time for the soon-to-be-free-agent. Coincidence? We shall see.

Nerlens Noel, Center, Philadelphia 76ers
2016-17 contract:
$4.4 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Sixers will head into the 2016-17 campaign with an extremely crowded frontcourt that features Ben Simmons, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Noel and Dario Saric all figuring to get plenty of court time. Simmons is out for the first three months due to a foot injury, but the team still has a bottleneck. Noel, who has been mentioned in trade rumors, has publicly questioned the team’s decision to roster three young centers. Many believe Noel will be the odd man out and that a trade before the deadline is a strong possibility. That remains to be seen, but what is true is the fact the Sixers probably can’t get away with hoarding these young big men for an extended time period.

Patty Mills, Guard, San Antonio Spurs
2016-17 contract:
$3.6 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

Future Hall of Fame forward Tim Duncan retired this past summer and veteran guard Manu Ginobili is likely right behind him at season’s end. Mills, 28, has become a valuable member of the Spurs’ bench the past few seasons and boasts championship experience, which will be coveted on the open market. With the salary cap set to rise once again, Mills could be in for a plethora of lucrative offers and San Antonio will have to think long and hard about potentially handing out an eight-figure payday to their consistent role player.

Rudy Gobert, Center, Utah Jazz
2016-17 contract:
$2.1 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Stifle Tower is one of the league’s emerging big men and a core piece of the Jazz’s young core. Gobert provides elite rim protection and could become a nightly double-double performer in time. The Jazz can opt to extend Gobert before the Oct. 31 deadline or wait until next summer when the market will likely dictate a maximum price tag for the center. Utah did allow Gordon Hayward to secure a max offer from Charlotte back in 2014, so the precedent is there that the franchise may take a wait-and-see approach. Either way, when the smoke clears, Gobert is going to command top dollar and will undoubtedly get it.

Otto Porter, Forward, Washington Wizards
2016-17 contract:
$5.9 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

Despite making significant leaps in a variety of statistical categories last season, the jury is still out on whether the Wizards will pay top dollar to retain his services. Porter is an intriguing prospect in today’s 3-and-D league, but he’s been plagued by bouts of inconsistency during the course of his career. But Porter is only 23 and nowhere close to his physical prime, which would make allowing him to walk out of the door for nothing in return very risky.

Derrick Rose, Guard, New York Knicks
2016-17 contract:
$21.3 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

Once you get over the fact the league MVP version of Rose is likely never going to resurface, you’re still left with a very productive player who only missed 16 games last season while averaging 16.4 points and nearly five assists. While those numbers are nowhere close to what Rose once produced, they’re nothing to thumb your nose at. In New York, Rose won’t have franchise-player expectations. Those belong to All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony; however, Rose will be expected to be his primary sidekick. The Knicks took a risk in bringing in Rose, but are banking on the former MVP to be in peak condition heading into his contract year. And he needs to play well and stay healthy if he wants to cash in next offseason.

Danilo Gallinari, Forward, Denver Nuggets
2016-17 contract:
$15.1 million
Free Agency Status:
Player option for 2017-18

Gallinari averaged a career-high 19.5 points per game in 2016, but the veteran forward failed to appear in 60 games for the second consecutive campaign. The Nuggets are rebuilding and Gallinari will be relied on heavily as the team’s best offensive talent. But will a veteran with a history of injury problems opt out and price himself out of what Denver is willing to spend? Will the team look to move their talented forward at the deadline and go all-in on their youth movement? All indications are that both parties are completely satisfied with one another, but nine months is an eternity when it comes to NBA relationships. Let’s see if anything changes.

Which non-stars headed to free agency are you looking forward to watching this season? Leave your comments below.

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G-League Watch: 10-Day Contracts

David Yapkowitz looks at five potential G-League callups for 10-day contracts.

David Yapkowitz

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Since Jan. 10, NBA teams have been able to sign players from the G-League to ten-day contracts. A few have already been signed, such as DeAndre Liggins with the Milwaukee Bucks and Kyle Collinsworth with the Dallas Mavericks.

Once a ten-day contract expires, teams have the option of signing that player to another ten-day contract. After the second ten-day, teams must either sign the player for the remainder of the season or release that player.

Some players have used ten-day contracts to essentially jump-start their careers. Bruce Bowen was once a ten-day contract player before becoming a key piece of multiple championship teams in San Antonio. Famed New York Knicks enforcer Anthony Mason also got his first chance in the league off a ten-day contract.

With a few guys already being called up via ten-day as well as the NBA’s new two-way contracts, here’s a look at some of the remaining names who might be next in line.

1. Christian Wood

Christian Wood was once a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. He played two college seasons at UNLV before declaring for the NBA draft in 2015. Despite being projected to be drafted late in the first round or early second round, he did not hear his name called on draft night. He’s spent some time in the NBA since then, with the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets, but he currently plays for the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers G-League affiliate.

His 22.0 points per game are tied with James Young for top scorer on the team. He’s shooting 53.9 percent from the field, and he’s also displayed a nice outside touch for a big man at 35.2 percent from three-point range. He leads the team in rebounds at 9.6, as well as in blocked shots with 2.0. He’s very mobile and could certainly help a team as a stretch big man who can play defense and crash the glass.

2. Jameel Warney

Jameel Warney has been a candidate for an NBA call-up for quite some time. The former Stony Brook standout had a big summer with Team USA basketball. He was the tournament MVP of the 2017 FIBA Americup and was named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year for 2017. He got as far as training camp/preseason with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016, and he’s currently playing for their G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.

With the Legends, he’s fourth on the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game. He’s second on the team in rebounding with 10.4, and he’s tied with Johnathan Motley leading the team in blocked shots with 1.5. He’s shooting 52.5 percent from the field. What could be hindering his NBA chances is his lack of an outside shot, especially with the way the game is being played today. Nonetheless, he’s still one of the G-League’s top players and he deserves a shot in the big leagues.

3. Melo Trimble

After a solid three years at the University of Maryland, Melo Trimble was one of the best players not selected in this past summer’s draft. He played well for the 76ers’ summer league team in Las Vegas, which in turn earned him an invite to training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He ended up being one of their final cuts at the end of preseason, and he went on to join their G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves.

He’s third on the Wolves in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field, and a decent 34 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also leading the team in assists per game with 5.7. He’s got the potential to be a decent backup point guard, and if he can get his shooting numbers, especially from three-point range, up a little bit, there’s no question he’s NBA caliber.

4. Joel Bolomboy

Joel Bolomboy is a name that should be familiar to Utah Jazz fans. He was drafted by the Jazz in 2016, and although relegated to mostly end of the bench duty, he showed a bit of potential and flash here and there. The Jazz cut him after a year, and he ended up in Milwaukee before they too cut him to make room for Sean Kilpatrick. He’s currently playing for the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks G-League affiliate.

At the recent G-League Showcase that took place from Jan. 10-13, Bolomboy had one of the best performances of the event. In the two games played, he averaged 25.5 points per game on 73 percent shooting from the field and 13.0 rebounds. He was named to the All-Showcase First Team. He’s had eight double-doubles so far in the G-League this season. He’s already gotten his feet wet in the NBA, and if he continues putting up similar production, it won’t be long before he finds himself back on an NBA roster.

5. Jeremy Evans

Jeremy Evans is a name that should be somewhat familiar to NBA fans. He’s spent six years in the league with the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. He also participated in two dunk contests in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately for him, dunking was probably the one thing he was known for. It might be why he found himself out of the league after only six years.

With the Erie Bay Hawks, the Atlanta Hawks G-League affiliate, his 15.9 points per game are good enough for fourth on the team. His 62.3 percent shooting from the field is a team-high, as is his 10.3 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks. Not known as a shooter during his time in the NBA, he’s only shooting 25.6 percent from three-point range in the G-League. If he can get his outside shooting percentages up, he has a shot at getting an NBA call-up and keeping that spot permanently.

Although there’s no guarantee that any of these guys get NBA call-ups on ten-day contracts, they have some of the best shots out of anyone in the G-League. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, all of these guys finish it out on an NBA roster.

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NBA Daily: Potential Trade Targets to Get the Sixers to the Playoffs

On the cusp of a playoff appearance for the first time in six years, the Philadelphia 76ers could cement their postseason status with a move at the trade deadline.

Dennis Chambers

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At times this season, the Philadelphia 76ers look like they’re capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the league’s best teams. With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at their disposal, along with capable three-point shooters, the Sixers have shown flashes of being a force to be reckoned with.

And at other times, well, they look like a discombobulated young team, with serious flaws in the construction of its roster.

Despite the lapses they display, the Sixers are still right in the thick of the playoff race. Currently, at 21-20, they hold a half-game advantage over the Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.

While they await the return of top overall pick Markelle Fultz, who has still yet to hit the court after being shut down earlier this season with a shoulder injury, the Sixers will continue to miss depth on the wing and a particular skill set that holds them back from winning games they seem to have locked up with double-digit leads. For all the greatness that is Embiid, and all of the promise that is Simmons, when the former isn’t on the court, the latter struggles to shoulder the scoring load due to his inability to shoot jump shots.

Initially, that’s what Fultz was drafted for. A player that head coach Brett Brown has said many times before, has the talent to tie everything together with the Sixers’ roster. What he means by that is Fultz represents a scorer from multiple levels of the court who forces the defense to lock in on, potentially leaving the teams’ shooters open on the wing.

Without Fultz, and when Embiid is on the bench, the team lacks a player who can put the ball on the floor, create and knock down jumpers. Although long-term success is still very much the attention for Philadelphia, that doesn’t discount the fact that a team that finished with 10 wins just two seasons ago is on the verge of making a playoff appearance for the first time since 2011-12 with a core of young, promising players.

Because of that possibility, and because of the clear holes in team’s makeup that could prevent this from happening, the Sixers could become an interesting player at the trade deadline — especially considering the names that appear available, according to reports.

It’s no secret that Sixers’ president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo wants to keep financial flexibility heading into this summer, that’s the main reason players like J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson were signed to one-year deals last offseason. Before the team has to start signing their own players to big extensions, the Sixers are in a unique position where they not only have elite homegrown talent, but the money to complement those players the best they can. Because of that, any deal that would return a player with money on the books past this season seems unlikely.

That being said, it just so happens that two players potentially on the trading block right now fulfill the Sixers’ most crucial need, and also aren’t on the hook for money past this year. Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that Rodney Hood could be moved before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, and that multiple teams are expressing interest in his services.

Along with Hood, Stein also reported that Lou Williams, who’s been the center of many trade talks around the league given his career-year and impending free agent status, was involved in specific discussions that would send him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

What should intrigue the Sixers about these two players is not only their ability on the court but also their flexibility off of it.

Let’s start with Hood. Before the rise of Donovan Mitchell this season, Hood looked to be in a position to assume the role as the dominant scorer on the Utah Jazz following Gordon Hayward’s departure. At just 25 years old and in the final year of his rookie contract, Hood may not be worth the price tag for Utah this summer considering their find with Mitchell.

Should the Jazz actually move on from Hood, it’s unclear what they would ask for in return at this point. Yes, Hood his an impending free agent, which could diminish his value. But the team trading for him would assume his Bird Rights, therefore giving them a better shot at retaining him this summer should they choose to do so.

The best part about his potential fit in Philadelphia is that he fits the timeline of the rebuild while also addressing a need in the present. Being just 25, Hood fits alongside the core of Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, Dario Saric and Robert Covington as a young player. If the Sixers were to miss out on whoever they were planning to target with their financial flexibility this summer, Hood would still be there to plug in for years with a contract extension.

Shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc this season, and displaying the track record of being able to fill up the score sheet, Hood could become the go-to-scorer for Philadelphia when Embiid isn’t on the court, or late in games when they need to stop an opposing team’s run.

While he appears to at least be on the table as of now, Hood is certainly worth checking in on from the Sixers’ standpoint.

Now, onto Williams. Drafted by Philadelphia all the back in 2005 with the 45th overall pick, Williams is enjoying the best season of his career for the Los Angeles Clippers. At 31, he doesn’t represent the long-term upside that Hood does, but for this season alone, bringing Williams on to this current Sixers’ roster could be that extra jolt to get them cleanly into the postseason.

Averaging 23 points per game and shooting 41 percent from downtown, Williams fits the role as an iso-scorer better than any player on the Sixers’ current roster. Alongside Simmons and Embiid, Williams could assume the role Fultz was supposed to this season.

Another interesting ripple to the potential Williams fit is that he was on the last Sixers’ roster to make the playoffs. Adding him to this roster would bring his career full circle. This summer, Williams is most likely going to test the market and given his age and potential price tag he may not fit so well into the Sixers’ plans moving forward. But with his history with the club and city, getting him on board for another playoff run with an exciting young team could arguably help in the negotiation process this offseason.

Neither of these potential trades are slam dunks, and it remains to be seen if either player will even be moved. But for where the Sixers stand currently, coupled with their growing postseason expectations, checking in around the league on trade targets that can fulfill obvious needs should be at the forefront of Colangelo’s agenda for the next few weeks.

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Payton Blocking Out Trade Talk, Believes Magic Will Turn It Around

Spencer Davies sits down with Elfrid Payton to discuss his fourth year, trade rumors and a trying season for Orlando in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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It’s hard for a team to look for positives when it’s living in the basement.

The Orlando Magic have had a rough go of it this year. They’re 13-32 at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, they’ve have had a ton of setbacks, and they currently rank 29th in the NBA in defensive rating.

There is a bright spot hidden in there, though, and head coach Frank Vogel sees it growing as the season progresses.

“We’re frustrated with our record, but we’re encouraged with the development we’ve had with our young players,” Vogel said before Thursday’s game in Cleveland. “Aaron Gordon, Mario [Hezonja], and [Elfrid Payton] have all had strong individual seasons and continue to get better. All those guys are improving individually and at some point, it’s gonna lead to more Ws.”

While Gordon stands out more to some than the others because of his star appeal, Payton is right up there with him as far as making the next step goes.

“Elfrid’s shooting the ball better from the perimeter and at the rim,” Vogel said. “He’s worked on his left hand. He’s worked on his floaters. Shooting 52 percent from the field and that’s pretty darn good for a point guard, and the 39 percent from the three as well.”

Those are your more traditional statistics that don’t address the leap he’s taken in efficiency. Sure, Payton’s scoring the same amount of points per game, but it’s the way he’s been getting that’s been most noticeable.

According to Basketball-Reference and NBA.com, he’s making nearly 70 percent of his tries between 0-3 feet and ranks third among point guards in restricted field goal percentage (min. four attempts).

But Payton doesn’t like to evaluate himself using numbers, so he doesn’t know how to feel about how he’s played for Orlando this year.

“It’s tough to say because I like to measure my success by winning and we haven’t been doing that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “So tough to say.”

He’s not kidding. Since starting out the season 8-4, the Magic have taken a hard fall, only winning five games since November 10. In this stretch, there have been three hefty losing streaks—two 9-game slides and most recently a 7-game skid.

“Not to make excuses—we had a lot of injuries,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of what happened. “Haven’t really been playing with the group of guys that we started the season with, so kinda derailed us a little bit.”

As the losses pile up, so does the chatter. Indicated by multiple recent reports, Orlando has made it clear that many players on the roster are available on the trade block. Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, and Payton were recently brought up as names who could possibly on the move if the right deal presents itself.

When asked about the rumblings, Vogel claimed he doesn’t have a message for his guys.

“They understand it’s part of the business,” he said. “Just focus on playing the game.”

Like his coach, Payton doesn’t have a reaction to the noise.

“I don’t get caught up into the things like that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Today I’m an Orlando Magic. I play for the Orlando Magic and I’m gonna give them 100 percent of me. I’m somebody that likes to finish what I started, so I definitely would like to see this through and try to turn this organization around.”

So who does he see on this team that can help jump-start the process in flipping the script?

“Everybody,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I like Vuc. I like AG. Evan [Fournier] is somebody who can fill it up. T Ross is somebody who can fill it up when healthy. I think we have a lot of talent on this team. Even the rookies—Wes [Iwundu] plays well for us in stretches. Jon [Isaac] when he was playing he’d do well.

“You could see the potential there. So I think we have a lot of weapons on this team. I’m very confident in the group we have here. I think we have a lot of talent, we just have to do it.”

Saying you’re going to right the ship is one thing. Actually doing it is a whole other challenge. With where the Magic sit in the standings currently, their work is cut out for them. That being said, Payton isn’t giving up.

In fact, he’s still got his eyes on making it to the postseason, and it starts with him.

“Definitely trying to get a run going,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Make a playoff push. It’s definitely not out of sight right now, especially with the way the East is. We win a few games and we right back in the thick of things.

“Do whatever I can to help us to get more wins, man. I think that’s what it all boils down to. I figure if I’m playing well, that means we’re winning for the most part.”

Defense matters the most, and it’s something Payton and his group know they need to get better at if they have a chance to play past mid-April.

“Just be tied in together a little bit more,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I think sometimes we have too many breakdowns on the backside. So just being more in-tune with each other.”

One thing is for sure—Orlando is going through this difficult time as a team, but refuses to fold. Payton says Vogel has constantly stayed in their ears with uplifting advice.

“Keep fighting,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of his words. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. No one’s gonna feel sorry for you, so just keep fighting.”

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