RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Adreian Payne

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 12th, 2014

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The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Adreian Payne

School: Michigan State

Height/Weight: 6’10”/240 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid to Late First Round

On And Off The Floor, Adreian Payne Grew Into A Man During His Time In East Lansing -- Is He Now Ready To Help An NBA Team?

On And Off The Floor, Adreian Payne Grew Into A Man During His Time In East Lansing — Is He Now Ready To Help An NBA Team?

Overview: Four-year college players have found it harder and harder to sneak into the NBA Draft’s first round in recent years, but if you need an example of a player who properly utilized every minute of their four years of eligibility, look no further than Adreian Payne. When he arrived at Michigan State, Payne was a raw athlete on the floor and an at-risk student off of it (his ADHD playing a large role in the latter). Now, four years later, Payne doubles as a polished NBA prospect and a college graduate. A freshman who averaged nine minutes per game and shot 49 percent from the free throw line morphed into a senior who shot 42 percent from three-point range (and 79 percent from the charity stripe), as Payne led the Spartans to within a game of the 2014 Final Four. He posted an offensive rating of 113.5 as a senior (a far cry from the 89.5 rating of his freshman campaign), and put his athleticism to use on the defensive glass in grabbing 22.9 percent of opponent’s misses, the 78th best individual rate in the nation. What Payne lacks in fluidity he makes up for with a violent version of athleticism, often rattling rims with aggressive finishes. Sticking to the theme, Payne’s perimeter jump shot also isn’t the smoothest you’ll find, but on the back of that stroke (as slow as it may be), Payne developed into one of college basketball’s most lethal inside-outside threats as an upperclassman. It’s that rare combination of outside shooting touch and raw strength and athleticism — in a 6’10” man with a hulking frame, no less — that has made Payne one of the most desirable quantities in this draft, even at his relatively advanced age of 23. Will one of college basketball’s most notable success stories make an NBA franchise as happy as he made Spartan nation?

Will Translate to the NBA: In many ways, Payne is one of the most prepared, ready-to-contribute prospects in this draft. He’s a strong, explosive athlete who will be able to finish around the hoop on one end and defend the post on the other (that Tom Izzo/Sparty pedigree never hurts when it comes to defensive commitment), but Payne’s most surefire NBA attribute is his outside stroke. Last season, the big man confirmed the glimpses of perimeter efficiency we first saw in his junior year by making 1.4 three pointers per contest and shooting over 42 percent from long distance. He also shot 79 percent from the free-throw line. This developed soft touch will earn Payne reps as a pick-and-pop four, a role he should be ready to thrive in from the get-go. It’s quite remarkable that a skill that arrived out of nowhere just 18 months ago is now Payne’s most distinguishable ticket to a spot in the NBA.

Needs Work: Payne is an explosive athlete, but his college production on the glass and as a shot-blocker never matched up with his prodigious physical gifts. A relatively low basketball-IQ may be to blame for his lack of dominance, as feel for the game concerns have chased Payne, even as he has put in the requisite work to improve himself (most notably on his jump shot). In fact, one NBA GM told me that Payne’s low hoops IQ is exactly the reason why he is not especially interested in drafting the former Spartan.

Best Case Scenario: Generally speaking, older prospects are expected to possess less room for growth, but Payne showed off an improved skill set in each of his four seasons in East Lansing. Does he have another year or two of development remaining, or has the learning curve been largely exhausted? The answer to that question may lie beyond Payne’s grasp. He is a high character player with extensive physical tools, but for him to grow into something more than a role player at the next level, the game must become more natural. Odds are long that the switch gets flipped – I mean, why would it have not happened by now? – but if Payne’s superior skill set is delivered a bit more coherence, his length, athleticism, and outside shooting touch are talents capable of making him a perennial All-Star.

Best NBA Fit: Payne’s floor-stretching abilities would be welcomed in Chicago (picks #16 and #19), a team that could use the frontcourt depth behind Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. The Toronto Raptors (selecting at #20) could also use Payne’s NBA-readiness to aid their ongoing ascendance in the Eastern Conference.  The sweet-shooting Michigan State product would add a different element to the interior-oriented Raptors frontcourt.

Scout’s Take (from NBADraft.net): “An explosive big with shooting range to the college 3-point line… Payne should be a quality “pick and pop” option in the NBA because of his toughness and shooting stroke… He comes off as being a bit stiff in his movements, but is as explosive off 2 feet as they come… A banger on the block. Has decent post moves and a good stroke… Improving feel around the basket and in the post, especially when it comes to making a counter move and passing out of double teams… Known to be an “intangibles” guy who is a good leader and hard worker.”

NBA Comparison: Markieff Morris

In 140 Characters Or Less, The Case For Payne:

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