Congrats! Adreian Payne is now a member of your favorite NBA team. What can he do for you? Well, you're about to find out.
In a world where NBA prospects have gotten younger and younger, Payne is an anomaly. He's 23 years old and is one of the few seniors projected to be drafted in the first round. Although he had an incredible career with Michigan State, his age will probably keep him out of the lottery. That's okay, because some lucky team in the mid-to-late first round could find a diamond in the rough.
I speak very highly of Payne, but don't get it twisted: he's probably not a future All-Star. His ceiling is pretty low, and I don't seem him ever dominating in the pros. But if he lands on the right team with a supportive frontcourt, he could blossom into a solid role player for a playoff-caliber team. Therefore, it works out that he'll probably be drafted by a playoff team.
It's borderline ageist to talk about Payne's low ceiling because he's still one of the most athletically gifted big men in this draft. He's got a 7'4" wingspan and can do things like this:
And unlike some players in this draft, he's got way more in his arsenal than dunks. He's a great rebounder, pulling down 7.3 boards a game last season. It's generally believed that rebounding is the easiest skill to translate from college to the pros, so look for Payne to remain feisty on the boards at the next level.
His biggest asset is his offensive versatility. He shot 42% from behind the arc last season, and could become a lethal pick-and-pop threat if he finds a good point guard. That outside shooting sets him apart from other prospects in this draft and other, similar players to Payne in the past. He had an impressively developed offensive game in college, and was effective from all parts of the floor. He can score posting up, spotting up, in the pick and roll, and on put-backs. That ability to score from anywhere will always make sure he has a job in the pros.
Sadly, I don't see him being effective posting up and on put-backs in the pros. Although he's gangly, he's only 239 lbs for a 6'10" frame. That will hold him back against beefier, NBA-level bigs. His skinniness will also prevent him from ever being a solid defender. That was never his forte at Michigan State, and certainly won't be his strength in the pros. He'll thrive when he can form a frontcourt tandem with a big, sturdy, defensive-oriented big.
Payne has a great understanding of his basketball strengths and weaknesses, and the NBA teams who will pick him know the same. He can stretch the floor and provide energy off the bench for many playoff-caliber teams in the mid-to-late first round. I could see the Bulls, Suns, Grizzlies or Rockets selecting Payne on Thursday night.
Payne could have a long, productive, yet unsexy career on all of those teams. But guys who rebound, knock down threes, and be genuinely great human beings are rare. Congrats on your pick.