Adreian Payne is one of the few players who enter the NBA after fully exhausting their eligibility at the collegiate level. Payne experienced great success in his four years in East Lansing and showed remarkable improvement from his freshman season on through graduation. Despite being one of the more mature players in this draft, Payne is also one of the few true stretch power forwards that are available, a position that is becoming critical in this new era NBA. Many experts predict Payne to go somewhere in the second half of the first round tomorrow night. With that in mind, let’s look at the most likely landing spots for one of this year’s Big Ten stars.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
This is the absolute highest I see Payne being selected, and it really comes down to if one trade scenario plays out. If Kevin Love is traded before the draft kicks off tomorrow and Minnesota can acquire a top ten pick in part for replacing the perennial all star, this would be their second pick of the first round. The Timberwolves would likely use their first pick on a wing player for a team desperate for shooting. Payne would then be the player to help replace Love as he does a lot of the same things. This may be a bit of a stretch, but Payne would certainly be worthy of being picked in the lottery.
2. Chicago Bulls (From Charlotte)
The Bulls have been looking to acquire shooting for the last decade basically. Payne gives them an immediate solution and would fit perfectly with Tom Thibideou’s defense and rebounding first mentality as it is the closest thing in the league to what Tom Izzo has built in East Lansing. Payne would provide excellent spacing for Joakim Noah open up huge lanes for Derrick Rose to operate in the pick and roll. The Bulls also pick at 19 so they have two chances to take a player who would provide immediate impact.
3. Boston Celtics
Celtics fans would love to see Payne continue to wear the green and white number five for them. It might even bring back memories of when Kevin Garnett played the game a similar way for the C’s in the not too distant past. Payne is actually a better shooter than the Big Ticket was when he entered the league. Danny Ainge is a brilliant GM. He recognizes the leadership and maturity of a player like Payne and can undoubtedly use those skills on a young, rebuilding team. He could pair nicely in the frontcourt with Jared Sullinger Kelly Olynyk, and a still developing Fab Melo.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (From Dallas via Houston and LA Lakers)
Teams as young and talented as the Thunder never really have glaring needs when the draft rolls around. That means they are looking for a player to come in and contribute right away and not have to develop while their in their championship window. Payne fits that bill to a tee. Assuming the Thunder get rid of Kendrick Perkins and all his ineffectiveness, Payne could contribute nicely off the bench for a frontcourt headed by Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams. His ability to space the floor also would give his team five shooters on the floor in most lineups.
5. Houston Rockets
This spot, in my opinion, is the latest Adreian Payne will hear his name called on Thursday night. The draft process has done nothing but help Payne as teams have realized the closest to sure thing Payne is. Teams know they are going to get leadership, shooting, and toughness from the MSU product and a team like Houston won’t let him get away if he falls to them. Him paired with Dwight Howard in the near future would allow the spacing for Howard to work down low. He also provides an excellent pick and pop option for James Harden and this would let Chandler Parsons play the 3 position giving Houston a massive frontcourt.
Adreian Payne is one of those players who just feels like he’ll be around for a decade and be productive. He has done a tremendous job over the course of his career developing his game to become a very complete player. There’s no reason to think he can’t continue that progression as he learns the ropes at the highest level of competitive basketball.