Sixers draft target: PF Adreian Payne

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Sixers draft target: PF Adreian Payne

In this installment of our series before June 26’s draft, we look at a swingman who can shoot:

Adreian Payne
Position: PF
Height/Weight: 6-10/239
School: Michigan St.

Did you watch the Delaware game? You really should have watched the Delaware game.

In Michigan State’s NCAA tournament opener, Payne throttled the poor Blue Hens. Payne scored 41 points on 10 for 15 shooting from the floor. He had eight rebounds. He made all 17 of his free throws. And he hit 4 of 5 three-point attempts. He was fantastic. The Blue Hens never had a shot. Those are the same Blue Hens who are called “basically an NBA team” by some people.

OK. Fine. No one calls the Blue Hens that. But still. Quite a game. It was the kind of game that made people notice. The kind of game that can help raise a prospect’s draft profile, which is exactly what’s happened. Before the NCAA tournament, he was projected as a late first-round pick. Now Payne appears to be a mid-first rounder.

Payne averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and nearly a block per game for the Spartans last season.

Strengths
Payne is a big guy with some solid low-post moves. He rebounds well. He makes free throws (79 percent on 4.5 attempts per game). And, most encouraging of all, he spent the last two years going from a traditional paint player to a power forward who can step outside and hit the three.

In his first two years at Michigan State, Payne didn’t shoot from the perimeter. In his junior season, he took 1.2 per game and made 38.1 percent. That’s not a lot of looks. But last year, in his senior campaign, he averaged 3.4 attempts and hit 42.3 percent. Much more encouraging.

Regardless of where Payne shot in college, he was an efficient scorer. He had a 60 true shooting percentage as a sophomore, 63 TS percentage as a junior and 61 TS percentage as a senior. He also increased his player efficiency rating to 25.5 last season.

On the offensive end of the floor, he’s gotten better as he’s gotten older. Which brings us to some of the issues certain teams might have with him.

Weaknesses
Payne is 23. He’ll be 24 before next year is out. That’s not old for most people entering the professional workforce, but Payne is not most people and his new job doesn’t involve sitting behind a desk somewhere in middle America.

He’s not a great passer. At present, his 10.2 assist rate makes him just about average for his position in this draft class.

Meanwhile, his blocks have dropped off somewhat. He averaged more than a block per game in his sophomore and junior years. Last season, he blocked 0.9 shots per game. That’s not a huge slip, but he managed to improve in so many other areas that it was somewhat surprising he regressed slightly as a rim protector. He accounted for 32.4 percent of the Spartans' blocks as a junior but 19.7 percent as a senior, and his block rate fell from 5.6 to 3.8.

Defensively, he can look a step slow at times. Does he have the quickness to move with athletic NBA power forwards?

How he’d fit with the Sixers
The Sixers like to get out and run. That might be an issue. He’s not doughy (8 percent body fat according to NBA.com), but he could definitely get in better cardio shape. Offensively, his game would fit nicely. He can stretch the floor or score inside. He gets to the line and hits free throws. And he can rebound. Defensively, if he improves his footwork, he could be serviceable. Having Nerlens Noel around would certainly help compensate at the defensive end.

NBA comparison
He’s been mentioned with Drew Gooden and likened to Robert Horry. Neither of those feel quite right.

For the purpose of other important comparisons, here is a quick and unsolicited ranking of Adreians/Adriens/Adrians:

5. Adrien Broner

4. Adrien Brody

3. Adreian Payne

2. Adrian Balboa

1. Adrian Peterson

I toyed with putting Payne in the two spot, but the Lady Balboa gets it just for flying all the way to Russia for the Drago fight. Long flight. Lots of snow.

Draft projection
First round. Could go anywhere from just outside the lottery to the mid 20s.

Report: Kings receive permission from Sixers to speak with Sam Hinkie

Report: Kings receive permission from Sixers to speak with Sam Hinkie

You can't make this stuff up.

After getting what is generally regarded as fleeced once upon a time by former Sixers general manager and president Sam Hinkie, the Sacramento Kings are reportedly interested in his services.

According to ESPN's Marc Stein and Zach Lowe on Monday, the Kings have expressed exploratory interest in Hinkie. Sources told ESPN that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive sought and received permission from Sixers owner Josh Harris to speak with Hinkie.

The Kings needed the Sixers' permission to speak with Hinkie because the executive is forced to sit out the entire 2016-17 season based on a non-compete clause in his contract that took effect when he resigned in April 2016.

The report states Hinkie's level of interest in the Kings or what his role would be alongside current president/GM Vlade Divac was not immediately known. It also says other undisclosed teams have sought permission to speak to Hinkie.

The Kings later released a statement denying the report: "The Kings are not hiring Sam Hinkie and have no plans to bring anyone in above Vlade."

Hinkie, hired prior to the 2012-13 season, engineered the Sixers' massive rebuild. The team struggled mightily during his three seasons at the helm as it finished with a 47-199 record. He stepped down on April 6 of last year and his role as team president was ultimately filled by Bryan Colangelo.

However, Hinkie set the Sixers up for the future by his continued flipping of players for assets. That includes perhaps his best deal, which involved the Kings.

In July 2015, Hinkie dealt the rights to Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic to Sacramento for Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry and Jason Thompson. More importantly, the Sixers also got the rights to swap first-round picks in the 2016 and 2017 NBA drafts and an unprotected first-rounder in 2019.

The Kings made moves to recoup some of those lost assets at this season's trade deadline when they shipped star big man DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi for 2016 No. 6 overall pick Buddy Hield along with veterans Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway and a 2017 second-round pick.

"But I believe we are going to be in a better position in two years," Divac said to the Sacramento Bee. "I want to hear again from these same people in two years. If I'm right, great. If I'm wrong, I'll step down. But if I go down, I'm going down my way."

Hinkie went down in Philadelphia on his own terms, too. Now his terms may involve working with Divac -- or even taking over his job.

Just remember, Vlade, trust the process.

Sixers recall center Tiago Splitter from D-League

Sixers recall center Tiago Splitter from D-League

The Sixers added some much-needed frontcourt depth Monday, recalling veteran center Tiago Splitter from the D-League.

Splitter, 32, averaged 6.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two games with the Delaware 87ers. It was his first game action since Jan. 31, 2016. He's missed significant time with a calf injury.

The Sixers acquired Splitter from the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 22 in the Ersan Ilyasova trade. They could use his presence in the paint defensively with Joel Embiid out for the season, Nerlens Noel in Dallas and Jahlil Okafor missing games with knee soreness. 

Richaun Holmes has started with Okafor out, and when he comes out he's been replaced by 6-foot-9 Shawn Long. (Long has had three solid games in a row, averaging 15.3 points and 7.7 rebounds against the Thunder, Bulls and Pacers.)

Sixers head coach Brett Brown is a fan of the little things Splitter can provide.

"I think that his fitness most stood out as the negative," Brown said last week. "I think the physicality that he does and what he does well -- he is an elite screen-setter, he is an elite roller, he's an elite passer -- you see hints of that again. But the fact does remain he hasn't played in 13 months."