In this installment of our series before June 26’s draft, we look at a swingman who can shoot:
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.
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.
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.
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.
First round. Could go anywhere from just outside the lottery to the mid 20s.