NBA Position: PG
General Information: 20 year old sophomore, played at Murray State. From Bartlett, Tennessee.
Measurables: 6’1.5", 183 pounds, 6’7.25" wingspan, 8’1.5" standing reach, 30" no step vertical, 35" max vertical
2014-15 Season Statistics: 20.2 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.9 SPG, .5 BPG, 2.5 TOPG (32.2 minutes per contest) – 45.6% FG, 78.7% FT, 37.7% 3P, 57.3% TSP
Summary: A hot name within the NBA draft rumorsphere, Payne played at mid-major Murray State but comes into the NBA with the best passing statistics among the top prospects. He makes up for his small size and lack of great explosiveness with a proven success as a shooter and solid if inconsistent defensive skills.
Offensive Breakdown: Payne offers the strongest combination of pure passing skills and shooting ability among the first round point guard prospects—D’Angelo Russell has him beat on shooting, and Emmanuel Mudiay is a much more gifted athlete, but Payne is the best passing playmaker. His 40% assist rate beats out his rivals easily; Mudiay at 31.8%, D’Angelo Russell has a 30.1% rate, and Utah’s Jerian Grant at 33.6%. It’s also important to note their usage rates, as Payne’s rate of 31.5% is also at the top of the list, with only D’Angelo Russell at 30.6% in close range. Russell’s role in Ohio State’s offense is well known, which allows us to see on numbers alone how much of Murray State’s offense depended on Payne.
Murray State ran a decently fast offense, finishing in the top third of NCAA teams for possessions a game. Payne proved to be an unselfish, crafty floor general in both the half court and in transition, and he’s a dangerous weapon on the pick-and-roll with his shooting ability. He also thrives in transition, and here his pass-first attitude is most apparent; he always has his head up, looking to find teammates. His turnover rate of 12.4% is very impressive considering the teams’ speed and his role as a passer, and the rate is again best of the first round point guard prospects.
He has an unorthodox shooting stroke, with a low point of release and more of a spin on his body than typical shooters, but he’s ingrained it at this point and doesn’t change his mechanics as some young players do. His shot is quick, which helps with his low release point and average NBA size. While he’s still a bit of a streaky shooter (84-223 from three past season for 37.7%), when he gets in his rhythm he’s a great scoring weapon from mid-range and beyond the NBA three.
Murray State’s lacked other consistent scorers, and Payne had to overexert his shooting ability as their primary offensive weapon, but given his natural passing instincts I don’t expect his shot selection will be a problem in the NBA. His high usage rate makes his 57% true shooting percentage exceptionally impressive, considering he was always facing the best defenders teams could throw at him
While he’s primarily a shooter rather than a slashing point guard, Payne does show an ability and willingness to attack the basket; he has nice hesitation moves and a killer mid-range floater. This may not be as reliable tool in the NBA given his average size, explosiveness, and skinny frame, but it speaks to his willingness to be more than a shooter.
Defensive Breakdown: As with seemingly every prospect not named Winslow or Cauley-Stein, Payne is a capable defender who lacked consistent effort. He’s got good fundamentals, and showed success (albeit inconsistent) at stopping opponents both on the perimeter and on the drive. Murray State was a below average defensive team, and while this shouldn’t be considered a positive for Payne, he was already asked to overcompensate for the lack of offensive talent. His skinny frame and lack of great speed won’t intimidate anyone in the NBA, but his court awareness and fundamentals will keep him from being a long-term liability. When locked-in, he’s got good instincts and can read the passing lanes; his 1.9 steals a contest and 3.6% rate rank among the top of the classes PGs.
Intangibles: Like most mid-major prospects, opponent talent is a concern for Payne; Xavier and Houston were among the best teams he played this year, and the transition from facing NCAA to NBA opponents may be more jarring for him than the bigger school PG prospects. Still, the recent success of mid-major PGs like Damian Lillard and Elfrid Payton gives reason for optimism.
Payne had an impressive freshman season (16.8 points, 5.6 assists) and showed continued growth all of his sophomore season. He was Murray State’s leader on all accounts, and there are no red flags surrounding his on-court leadership or work ethic.
Fit with Sacramento: Compared to the other two discussed point guards of Mudiay and Russell, Payne does offer a more natural passer with a low turnover rate, and his command of the Murray State offense and his shooting ability makes him a very intriguing prospect. He'd bring much that Sacramento needs; past-first playmaker, high basketball instincts, good ball-control, above-average shooter, and solid defensive skills. A Payne selection would put Darren Collison’s long-term role in the team into question, but depth is never a bad thing with this team, especially when it comes to players with a high IQ like Payne and Collison.
Payne offers much in the passing game, but I’m not convinced that he fits the dribble drive’s attacker mentality in the same way Emmanuel Mudiay does with his abilities at the basket. Payne’s 6’1.5" size is also less than ideal compared to Mudiay and Russell (both 6’5), but he makes up for it somewhat with his longer than standard wingspan (6’7.25, with Mudiay at 6’8.5" and Russell at 6’9.75"). Height isn’t the most important quality for floor generals, as Collison (6’1.5’) proves, but it does mean that a Payne/Collison lineup doesn’t offer the same versatility on both ends that Mudiay would provide.
And as always, check out the DraftExpress breakdowns;