NBA Position: PG
General Information: 20 year old junior, played at Louisiana-Lafayette. From Marrero, Louisiana.
Measurables: 6'4", 185 lbs, 6'8" wingspan, 8'2.5" standing reach
2013-14 Season Statistics: 19.2 PPG, 5.9 APG, 6.0 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 3.6 TOPG (35.9 Minutes per contest) - 50.9% FG, 60.9% FT, 25.9% 3FG, 55.1% TSP
Summary: Payton is a capable and unselfish point guard who thrives at attacking the basket. He has good size for the position and is a great athlete, but aside from his slashing ability and point guard skills, his offense is a work in progress. Payton is a poor shooter and will need major work before he'll be an offensive threat at the NBA level.
Offensive Breakdown: Payton is a true pass-first point guard, averaging 5.9 assists and a 32.9% assist rate, both of which are better than Tyler Ennis (5.5 and 32.2%) and Marcus Smart (4.8 and 30.1%). He loves to attack the basket in transition and find open shooters, but also handles the half-court offense well. He likes to use his size and length advantages to pass over defenders, but he'll need to cut down on that when he's facing bigger and lengthier NBA opponents.
His scoring ability is limited to attacking the basket, where he utilizes his athleticism advantages. He wasn't as successful when forced to work through contact, but he's crafty at the rim and knows how to use his length. He will need to add serious muscle for this to continue to be successful in the NBA.
For all his promise, there's no denying that Payton is a serious work in progress. His jumpshot was ineffectively bad last season; he shot 24.3% on two-point jumpers and 25.9% from three. Half of his offense (52.1%) came at the basket, and he was very effective (70.3% shooter at the rim), but he was less successful when he faced NBA level length and size. Without an average jumpshot, Payton is going to be an easy cover for NBA teams who will play him like they do Rajon Rondo-stack the paint, play off him and dare him to shoot.
His shooting woes carry over to the free throw stripe, where he shot a poor 60.9%. The hitch in his shot is evident at the line, and he more pushes the ball then shoots it. He was successful at getting to the line, shooting 8.3 a contest (while making 5.6).
The other offensive problem with Payton is turnovers; while he's an unselfish player, he forces a lot of bad passes. In fast breaks, he often makes poor quick decisions rather than letting the offense settle in. This is the area where the other two top college point guards have him beat-his 3.6 turnovers a game and 17.2% turnover rate are significantly higher than Ennis (1.7 and 11.9%) or Smart (2.6 and 14%).
Defensive Breakdown: While he'll need to add weight to his skinny frame, Payton is an NBA ready defender and has great awareness on that end of the court. He's quick, pesky and gives full effort, and with his excellent 6'8 wingspan he's got the size to transition to the NBA game well.
He plays the passing lanes well, and with his quick hands he racked up 2.3 steals a contest (with an impressive 3.6% steal rate). He's a good help defender for a guard, instinctual with great awareness, and will shift as needed. In the NCAA Tournament game against Creighton, he even matched up against Doug McDermott and did remarkably well at containing the bigger scoring star.
The only major criticism for his defense; he needs to learn to stick closer to shooters when they don't have the ball rather than drift to the action. Other than that, he'll just need to add muscle to be able to guard stronger PGs and most SGs.
Payton is an above-average rebounder for his position, grabbing 6 boards a contest. He's not afraid to muscle in with forwards on the glass, and won't give up his position easily when boxing out in the paint. With added strength, he should be a solid rebounder for a point guard.
Intangibles: Payton was the visible leader for the competitive Mid Major squad, and looks like a high-effort player who battles with enthusiasm. He's got an improving basketball awareness and there are no red flags surrounding him besides his shooting woes. He played on the USA's Under 19 Team in the FIBA World Championships last summer and has handled the increased attention well. Despite playing three years of college basketball, he's only 20 and is just a few months older than guys like Joel Embiid or Marcus Smart.
Much will be made of Payton playing in a Mid Major conference, but given the recent success of fellow Mid Major point guards Damian Lillard and Rajon Rondo, we know that strength of collegiate opponents doesn't correlate to NBA success. There are a ton of rumors about serious interest in Payton, including one from ESPN's Chad Ford that he held his own in his matchup with Smart in Sacramento and is "in the mix for the No. 8 pick". Of course, that was from Chad Ford, so take it with the proper amount of salt.
Fit with Sacramento: The Kings three biggest needs are shooting, defense and basketball IQ. Payton checks the last two boxes, but that shooting is still a major concern. Given that he's only 20, though, there isn't anything in his game that can't be fixed with the right effort and coaching.
For what it's worth, the Kings do have a well-respected shooting coach in Chris Jent, who worked closely with LeBron James at fixing his shooting mechanics early in his career. If the Kings are comfortable with Payton's flaw and think they can overcome it, he's otherwise a great fit. He's got the pass-first mentality and defensive intensity Michael Malone has always raved about.
Selecting Payton wouldn't mean much about Isaiah Thomas' future. Payton is a project player, and is tall enough that he could play alongside Thomas in certain situations. He'd need to bulk up to play defense against NBA shooting guards, but his slashing ability and instincts to find open shooters would fit well next to Thomas or Ben McLemore.
As an under-the-radar prospect from a small school, Payton's exposure was limited compared to most of the 1st Round college prospects. Make sure you watch both of DraftExpress' great videos on Payton-a full scouting breakdown, and a detailed analysis on Payton in his three games against top tier schools (Louisville, Baylor and Creighton).