The New York Knicks knew they’d be facing a tough opponent in the Atlanta Hawks in the first series of the postseason, but they didn’t imagine how physical and intense it would be. Playing aggressive defense during the regular season, the Knicks had the number one ranked unit in points allowed per game, but Atlanta found ways to exploit their deficiencies.
One of those weaknesses was ultimately point guard Elfrid Payton, who average 23.6 minutes per game this season, shooting .432 from the field and a measly .286 from three-point land. He averaged 10.1 points per contest, but once the playoffs rolled around, Payton saw his opportunities dwindle to mere single-digit reality.
“I would’ve liked to see him play based on him playing the whole year,” Payton Sr. told Marc Berman of The Post. “That’s the only thing I had about it. I was surprised they didn’t try to put him back in and see. I’m not saying it didn’t go well because he wasn’t in there. But they didn’t try to go back to him even in a reserve role.”
Head coach Tom Thibodeau started Payton the first two games of the series, but his minutes decreased quickly, starting at eight and falling to five in Game 2. By the time Game 3 rolled around, Payton was completely phased out of the lineup, not stepping on the court once to help his team.
The reason behind benching Payton was simple, he offered minimal defense, and his scoring prowess for a starting PG was dismal. Instead, the Knicks put Derrick Rose in the driver’s seat, who had extensive playoff experience and averaged double-digit points per game with a high of 30 in Game 3. While his defense was spotty, there are not many players in the NBA that can currently faceguard Trae Young.
As for Payton, he undoubtedly is facing free agency on a low after being benched in the postseason, and while he wishes he could’ve experienced a bit more playing time, he pushes forward without regret.
“His spirits are fine,” Payton Sr. said. “He wish he could’ve a played a little more. He wished he could’ve contributed more in the playoffs. It was the first time he was in the playoffs since being drafted and he was one of the reasons.”
Payton was on a one-year, $5 million deal with the Knicks this past season, so he will undoubtedly hit free agency without an option for return. The Knicks are looking to make a big splash this upcoming off-season, preferably a point guard, so they can use every dollar possible to attract a big name to The Garden.