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.

Going No. 1 still 'hasn't hit' Markelle Fultz after whirlwind draft process

Going No. 1 still 'hasn't hit' Markelle Fultz after whirlwind draft process

Let’s pretend you were drafted No. 1 in the NBA draft: how would you commemorate it?

Chances are, it’s not doing what Markelle Fultz did. 

“I got some sleep,” Fultz said. “That was my celebration. I packed my bags and got some sleep.”

The 19-year-old had been on a whirlwind during the draft process. Up until a week ago, he was projected to land in Boston. A trade between the Sixers and Celtics quickly shifted Fultz’s new home to Philadelphia. Then he had the anticipation of the actual draft in New York City with public appearances and media circuits all before his name was called Thursday night.

“I haven’t had a chance to sit down and think about what just happened about the pick,” Fultz said. 

Sixteen hours after being selected by the Sixers, Fultz was back at their training complex in Camden, New Jersey, for an introductory press conference. He had been to the facility last Saturday for a workout, but this time his trip wasn’t quite the same as a three-hour drive from his home in Maryland.

“The difference is my mindset coming in here today,” Fultz said. “I know that I’m officially a part of this organization. I’ve just got my heart and soul into it now. I’m opening up, meeting everybody. I’m very happy. I’m very excited.”

Fultz was ushered around the court from the podium to stations with multiple media outlets and groups of reporters. He answered questions about his fit with the current roster, expectations, and long-term goals for the organization. 

Fultz’s world has been moving forward at rapid speed. Meanwhile, he still has plenty to catch up on from his day-old, pre-NBA life. Fultz had kept his phone turned off during the draft. He received over 300 missed messages and calls. 

“When I turned it on, it actually froze up,” he said. “I still haven’t replied to everybody. I’m pretty sure everybody knows what’s going on right now. I’m going to take the time out one day to make sure I reply to everybody.”

Fultz planned to go back to Maryland after his day in Philadelphia. His destination once he returned home: the basketball court. At first, Fultz thought he hadn’t worked out in two days. Then he remembered he had in fact done so while in New York for the draft, but the gym rat already was itching to get the ball in his hand again. 

“I’ve got to get back in the gym and get a workout in,” Fultz said. “Then I’m trying to get up here (to Camden) as soon as I can.” 

Even though Fultz still was soaking in his new future, he already has plans once he gets settled in Philadelphia. Fultz intends to volunteer his time to the youth, students, and homeless. 

“I want to impact the community a lot,” Fultz said. “Growing up, my mom has always put me in stuff like Food and Friends where we delivered dinners. I just know I have a blessing and I want to make other people feel blessed."

There will be little downtime for Fultz. Just as soon as he digests draft night, he will be traveling out west for summer league (see story). He's in no rush, though, to move beyond the enormity of being selected No. 1.

“I’m glad that it hasn’t hit me yet,” Fultz said. “I think when I sit down and it hits me, it’s going to be a very emotional time. Right now I’m just happy.”

NBA Notes: Clippers' Blake Griffin opts out of deal to become free agent

NBA Notes: Clippers' Blake Griffin opts out of deal to become free agent

Blake Griffin has decided to test free agency, telling the Los Angeles Clippers that he is opting out of the final year of his contract.

A person with direct knowledge of Griffin's plans confirmed the decision to The Associated Press on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither the five-time All-Star nor the Clippers have publicly announced the move.

The move was expected, and gives Griffin the chance to either pursue a deal elsewhere -- or, of course, re-sign with the Clippers for more years.

The Clippers have had six consecutive successful regular seasons -- winning at least 60 percent of their games each year, something only San Antonio has done in that same span -- but never cracked the code of finding success in the playoffs. The Clippers never made it out of the second round in any of those six seasons, and lost in the first round each of the last two years.

And now with Griffin, along with LA guards Chris Paul and J.J. Redick all potentially on the move as free agents, as well as speculation that DeAndre Jordan could be a trade possibility, next season's Clippers could have a decidedly different look (see full story).

Clippers: Paul re-elected as NBPA president
NEW YORK -- Chris Paul has been re-elected president of the National Basketball Players Association.

Paul's new four-year term begins immediately. He will be assisted by the union's newly elected vice president, Garrett Temple of the Sacramento Kings.

In his first term as president, Paul most notably helped the players and the NBA come together on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that goes into effect on July 1.

Paul says he's "humbled that my fellow players have voted to have me continue."

Temple has a three-year term as vice president, which also begins immediately. He replaces Kyle Korver in that role.

The other members of the NBA's Executive Committee are First Vice President LeBron James, Secretary-Treasurer James Jones, and Vice Presidents Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Pau Gasol and Anthony Tolliver.

Pistons: Caldwell-Pope suspended 2 games
NEW YORK -- Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was suspended for two games without pay by the NBA on Friday for pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Caldwell-Pope was sentenced to a year of probation last week in a March traffic stop in suburban Detroit.

Caldwell-Pope was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after police say he was spotted going about 45 mph in a 25 mph zone about 2:50 a.m. March 29 in Auburn Hills. He was arrested after a field sobriety test. A further test showed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent.

Caldwell-Pope is a restricted free agent.

NBA: Camby sued over nephew’s drowning
HOUSTON -- Former NBA player Marcus Camby has been named defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit over the drowning of his 9-year-old autistic nephew in a pond on Camby's Houston-area property last Thanksgiving.

The federal lawsuit, filed Thursday by the boy's father, Marcus Kendall McGhee, alleges that Camby was aware of the limitations of his nephew, Marcus Carter McGhee, but failed to supervise the child and used no protective measures to keep him away from the pond.

The boy was found dead two days after he was reported missing. He'd traveled to Texas from his home in the Hartford, Connecticut, area for the holiday.

Camby's property includes several acres in Pearland, a Houston suburb.

Camby could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. He played 19 NBA seasons for six teams, including the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers. The 2012-13 season was his last.