DraftExpress | ESPN | NBADraft | Stats | Wiki
Point Guard | 6’2 | 185 | Murray State
Projected: Mid-Late Lottery
Best Case: Brandon Jennings
Most Likely: Trey Burke
Worst Case: Ronnie Price
The small school guard is en vogue at present. One just took home MVP honours while Dame and CJ are thriving despite spending four years plying their trades in the Big Sky and Patriot League conferences respectively. Even Rodney Stuckey has found his niche as a sixth man in Indiana after failing to seize the point guard of the future mantle in Detroit. So is Cam Payne the next in a line of moderate to outrageous small school success stories? I don’t think so.
Described as skinny, a mediocre athlete and lacking quickness, Payne starts at a physical disadvantage. This manifested itself even against the weak college competition he faced – with a below 50% success rate at the rim and a relatively low free throw rate, his struggles driving the lane are already evident and will likely only be exacerbated by the smarter, faster, longer athletes he’ll find waiting in the league. That is fine if you are a long-range bomber (Indeed that type of point guard can have more success now than at any other time in NBA history) and Payne did make 2.4 threes a game at a decent 38% clip as a sophmore, but his mechanics give me pause. He releases the ball low and twists as he shoots, not really allowing for consistent form. Lillard had similar concerns about a low release point coming out of college and Payne shares his lightning quick release, but Dame always seemed to have consistent form which gave me more hope of his shooting numbers translating than I have for Payne’s. This is the reason I compare him to guards that have struggled to shoot efficiently in the league – he struggles to finish and has inconsistencies with his jumper, so I can see him being a sub 40% from the field type.
Payne does have some intriguing strengths that helped propel him from being projected to go undrafted as recently as February to his current lottery position. Excellent ball-handling, elite court vision and defensive potential make him an attractive proposition at a position that needs to be both played and defended at a high level. He has an innate unselfishness and feel for the game which reminds me a little of Rondo, something that could be deadly if opposing defenses have to respect his shot. Payne spent only two years at Murray State, fewer than the success stories mentioned above, which could give a team hope that he has plenty of room to grow. Productivity and potential is a tantalising combination and one lottery team looks likely to bet on Payne as a result.
Needless to say, the Blazers making a move for Payne is a non-starter. His profile as a skinny, unathletic shotmaker reminds me of how Trey Burke was described coming out of Michigan. That might make for a fine backup somewhere but we could use a more reliable shooter and defender than Payne projects to be. In any case, the assets we’d be required to give up to get him would leave a hole bigger than the one he’d be brought in to fill. Honestly, of the potential lottery prospects I’ve looked at so far, Payne leaves me the least excited. I hope OKC pick him.