College: Murray State (Sophomore)
Position: Point Guard
Playing Style: Playmaker/Scorer
Height w/Shoes: 6' 1.5"
Wingspan: 6' 7.25"
Max Vertical: 35.5
DraftExpress: 14th (Oklahoma City)
CBS Sports: 21st (Dallas)
SB Nation: 11th (Indiana)
HoopsHype (USA Today): 14th (Oklahoma City)
Paul Coro: 14th (Oklahoma City)
Few first-round prospects in the 2015 Draft have flown under the radar quite like Cameron Payne. The 6'2 guard from the Memphis, TN suburb of Bartlett was not heavily recruited, leading him to suit up for little Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference, where he put up numbers of 20.3 PPG and 6.0 APG on 44.9% from the field and a PER of 29.5 during the 2014/15 season.
Unfortunately it wasn't enough to propel Murray State into the Big Dance, as they lost in the conference tournament final to Belmont (insert Castlevania reference here) and were henceforth bound for the NIT.
Despite no recognition coming out of high school and very little exposure in college, Payne has managed to make quite the name for himself and is widely seen as a mid-first rounder, right where our Phoenix Suns have taken their accustomed place in the drafting order.
While many would bemoan the selection of a point guard -- any point guard -- by the Suns, Payne's playmaking skills and panache for the pick-and-roll will make him impossible to ignore at no. 13.
Payne is a natural point guard that ranked no. 1 among DX's top 100 prospects in AST% (39.5). While this is likely in part to him being the top dog at a small school, there is no mistaking his instincts when running an offense.
He displays an excellent ability to keep his dribble alive as he patiently probes the defense until he finds the weak spot, at which point he shows impeccable timing and pinpoint precision with his passes. Suns fans that have grown weary with the tunnel-vision tendencies of Eric Bledsoe and Archie Goodwin will appreciate Payne's vision in the halfcourt, as he is constantly surveying the landscape with his head in the proper upright position.
Whether it was moving the ball ahead in transition, driving and kicking to shooters or throwing 40-foot lobs, Payne murdered opposing defenses with his passing ability from virtually anywhere on the court.
He also filled it up nicely with his scoring ability. He has an unorthodox lefty jumper with a low release point, but he gets it off quickly and had good results from 3PT range (37.3%) and in. While he won't blow anyone away with his athleticism, he can get into the paint using his shifty ability to change speeds and utilizes a nifty floater to make up for his lack of finishing ability at the rim (his 49 floaters on 105 attempts led the nation).
Defensively, he shows considerable levels of sneakiness and uses his length and strong hands to pilfer from unsuspecting opponents (2.1 steals per 40 minutes). While he doesn't project to be a defensive stalwart at point guard in the mold of an Elfrid Payton, he shows enough ability here to alleviate any concerns.
Payne's lack of finishing ability currently stands out as his greatest weakness. His truncated athleticism leads to an alarming amount of stuffed shots and missed layups around the rim, where he shot only 53.7%. This while playing in the Ohio Valley Conference, not the NBA where the likes of Rudy Gobert would view a Cameron Payne layup attempt as little more than an hors d'oeuvre.
When viewing the video of his misadventures in the paint, his inability to explode to the rim seems to be the biggest culprit as a lot of his shots are blocked from behind. Since this isn't the kind of attribute that can be expected to improve over time, Payne will have to get really creative to evolve into a threat in the dribble-drive, which many NBA offenses rely heavily upon.
While his aforementioned floater is indeed finely honed, Payne tends to overuse it as a bailout alternative to initiating contact inside, often cutting his drives short in spots where you would like to see him go for the and-1.
There are currently a few other blemishes to his game -- over-reliance on his left hand, falling asleep on defense, shot selection -- but these are more of the garden-variety youngster symptoms than valid causes for concern. His beast of burden at this stage is his finishing ability, and he would do well to watch a lot of video on how guards before him that also lacked explosiveness were able to convert inside among the trees.
Fit On The Suns
There has been much unrest in Suns land regarding GM Ryan McDonough's seemingly pathological compulsion to acquire and unceremoniously ship out point guards. Since taking over the helm in the summer of 2013, Kendall Marshall, Ish Smith, Goran Dragic, Tyler Ennis, Isaiah Thomas and even A.J. Price (if we're gonna be technical about it) have been dealt away in a perpetually revolving door of floor generals.
Some Suns fans may or may not have sworn to chew off their own arm if the 13th pick in the 2015 draft is yet another point guard.
Here's the thing, though: they actually need a point guard right now.
While they would do well to exercise caution when adding personnel respective to on-court positions following the overexuberance of the Isaiah Thomas experiment, the backup point guard at this current moment in time is Jerel McNeal.
Using Cameron Payne to fill this hole makes quite a bit of sense for a few reasons.
- Being a rookie, Payne's addition to the team wouldn't incur a repeat of the 'too many cooks in the kitchen' situation of 2014/15, at least not for a year or two
- Having said that, Payne's skillset appears to be more NBA-ready than many of his peers
- Payne's passing acumen would be a welcome balance to the score-first tendencies of Bledsoe and Brandon Knight
- Knight can take most or even all of the minutes at backup-PG if Payne has trouble adjusting
Of course, there might be plenty of better options available assuming that the Suns even stay at 13. Just use this as a helpful guide prevent hyperventilation if Payne or another point guard's name is called.
All stats courtesy of DraftExpress.com