The parting of ways between point guard Elfrid Payton and the Orlando Magic was bound to happen. On Thursday, the Magic ended a nearly four-year-long experiment gone bad by shipping Payton on NBA Trade Deadline day to the Phoenix Suns.
With the deal being announced just minutes before the 3 p.m. deadline, one could say that Orlando was literally "saved by the bell." While it may be painful to part ways with a player who the franchise originally selected with the tenth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, it was absolutely necessary.
One could make the argument that Payton has been the biggest impediment to success throughout the six years of this Magic rebuild. As he has come of age in the NBA, the league has become all about having a star point guard who can do it all.
Names like Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving dominate the headlines. Point guards are no longer purely pass-first players, they are now in many cases expected to be the main offensive forces for their teams.
Payton, with his career averages of 11.1 points and 6.4 assists per game, has never grown into that kind of role. In a league that increasingly prioritizes making threes, his long-distance shooting has improved, but not nearly enough.
While his offensive game is lagged, Payton's failings on the defensive end may be even more egregious. In his final collegiate season, he was presented the Lefty Driesell Award as the top defensive player in college basketball.
That reputation preceded Payton once he entered the pros and he was expected to be the kind of lockdown defender who could shut down some of the emerging stars at his position. Instead, fans at the Amway Center have seen opposing point guards routinely go off for career nights when visiting Orlando during his tenure.
So with the struggles present on the court, a breakup needed to happen. The Magic's former front office regime gave up a haul originally to get the draft rights to Payton, trading their first-round pick from that year, a future first rounder and a future second-round selection.
That makes this parting particularly painful when Orlando fans look back, but this move was not about replaying past failures. It was about pushing the franchise forward to what everyone hopes will be future successes.
Payton was set to be a restricted free agent and regardless of his mediocre play, he was due for a significant raise this summer. New President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and General Manager John Hammond are not looking to back themselves into that kind of financial corner.
With added flexibility going forward, the next point guard of the Orlando Magic could be right around the corner this summer. If the organization is lucky, maybe that player will be in the mold of a Curry, Westbrook or Irving.
Carson Ingle has been a sportswriter and sports talk radio host in Orlando for the past ten years. He can currently be seen several times a week on Spectrum Sports 360's Face-Off segment at 10:30 p.m. on Central Florida News 13, channel 1013. Follow him on Twitter.