The Atlanta Hawks drafted Michigan State forward Adreian Payne with the 15th pick in this year's NBA Draft. After taking a few days to absorb the tornado of excitement that is the NBA Draft, it's important to look into how exactly Payne will fit with the Hawks come next year.
So far, the pick has received generally good reviews from the media, and I agree. Payne and Atlanta seem to be a perfect marriage, especially since Payne fits right into the Hawks' rebuilding plan. That plan, as ludicrous as it may sound, is to draw a star free agent to the ATL. Yes, even LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Our colleagues at Peachtree Hoops examined this concept right here, and although it's veery far-fetched, Payne couldn't be a better asset for the Hawks.
The Hawks have built a balanced, fun, and cost-effective roster. Jeff Teague runs the point, Al Horford and Paul Milsap battle down low, and Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carrol provide shooting and defense on the wings. To maintain space for a potential superstar free agent, the Hawks need to cultivate some cheap bench depth that can shoot and play with high energy. Adreian Payne is just that type of guy.
One more roster-comment before actually talking about how he fits in stylistically: the addition of Payne allows the Hawks to potentially make Mike Scott and/or Pero Antic expendable if they want to get more cap space. Both Scott and Antic were excellent role players for Atlanta last year, but Payne could become Atlanta's go-to big man off the bench that can stretch the floor. If someone wants to give those guys a big contract/trade offer, the Hawks will invite that with open arms now that they have Payne.
Enough with these visions of grandeur of LeBron and Carmelo signing with the Hawks (but hey, Outkast reunited this year, so anything is possible for Atlanta).
Payne gives Atlanta incredible depth in the frontcourt. Because Al Horford was injured for so long and missed Atlanta's playoff excitement against the Pacers, people may forget how talented he is when healthy. In addition, the Hawks have Paul TRILLsap to keep it trill on the boards. Both Horford and Milsap, as well as Scott and Antic, are capable defenders. Therefore, Payne can play in short, 12-15 minute bursts, and do what he does best: run the pick-and-pop and knock down open shots.
In my previous article about Adreian Payne's draft stock, I mentioned that his point guard will dictate Payne's pro development. Jeff Teague kills in pick-and-roll situations, (as you can see here) and has plenty of experience playing with big men that can shoot the 3. If Payne can find the floor, he'll have lots of fun with Teague.
With Payne, Atlanta now has 5 serviceable big men. That could potentially inhibit Payne's growth, because he may not see the floor that much. But Atlanta drafted Payne because they felt he could become a cheap and young replacement for their incumbent big men.
I'm most excited to see Payne land on a team where he can turn into the perfect role player. He just smells like the type of guy that will hit 5 three-pointers in a game 7 some day. The Hawks play in the god-awful Eastern Conference, and depending on what happens with the Heat, Nets, and Raptors, the Hawks could be the one of the most stable contenders. Payne's experience and poise will only help the Hawks' stability as they progress as a team.