Gary Payton II feels like he should be one of the most talked about prospects in this draft class, but even having the same name as his Hall of Fame dad hasn't garnered much attention.
The 23-year-old senior out of Oregon State was first team All-Pac-12 and the Defensive Player of the Year in both of his two years playing for the school after transferring from a community college.
Payton's skillset is not dynamic, and that's apparent when looking at his draft stock. DraftExpress, ESPN, and CBS Sports all have him in the 45-55 range of their big boards, meaning that he could easily go undrafted.
Some folks, including myself and some at Upside Motor, heavily disagree and believe he should go in the first round.
Let's dive in and see why that's the case.
The next generation of point guards
Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Derrick Rose pre-injury and others have helped showcase a new generation of point guards with phenomenal athleticism.
Payton fits the mold. At 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, Payton has the size to keep up at the next level.
If you're wondering about his bounce, ask Cheick Diallo.
Most teams have no answer whatsoever for guys like Westbrook and Wall, but Payton has the tools to become one with time.
How many lockdown defenders are there at the point guard position in the NBA? Not many right?
That's where Payton's value shines through. He was by no means that at Oregon State, but it was not due to a lack of understanding.
He played a majority of his time in a zone defense, which allowed him to grasp a terrific base of knowledge on team defense both off the ball and on it.
That delayed his learning as an individual defender on the ball.
Payton needs a couple of corrections to become that guy, but more important is the fact that he only needs those to become a special player on that end.
The tools are all there. (For your convenience, this is a streamable clip from DX's strengths video on Payton. As always, shoutout to the terrific work they do. You can view the full video here.)
He has terrific lateral quickness, great instincts for both steals and blocking shots (zone D once again helped), and is going to get better when he understands what exactly he has to do as an individual on-ball defender.
From my viewing, it does not look like a lack of understanding, mentality, or effort on his end. He's close to being very good already in the NBA (after running into the rookie wall a few times like they always do.)
Besides some hesitations as to how good he truly is on defense, the reason Payton is so far down many boards is because of his limitations as a point guard.
Payton II is somewhere in the range of below average at the position, which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement.
He's a decent ball-handler and, to steal a bullet point from DraftExpress, is also a "capable passer."
He's not going to blow you away as a playmaker by both creating open looks for his teammates and hitting them at difficult angles. That's not his game.
When he can get to the basket for himself, he's a great finisher. According to DraftExpress, Payton II shot 65 percent at the rim this season.
His three-point shot, like his complete game on this end, is limited. He shot 32 percent is senior year, and would be much better off taking the occasional open catch-and-shoot three.
How much he can hit those shots could very well dictate how well he fits into an offense. The good news is microwave scorers at either wing spot are fairly common and a player like that is a great compliment to his game. Your offense isn't going to tank when Payton is in if you have a capable offensive player on the wing, and those are much more common than a capable defensive player.
Role player potential
Payton has large parts of his game that make him an ideal role player in the NBA.
His primary focus is on defense, and he can be positive both on the ball and off it. If you want to play him with another point guard for his defense, he should have no problem continuing to be a plus off the ball on that end and will do his part on the glass as much as a shooting guard normally would.
He's a terrific rebounder, grabbing nearly eight a game in his two seasons at Oregon State.
Payton is one of only two players since the 1993-94 college basketball season to average at least three steals and one block per game in a power conference. He racks those up, and those are the types of impact plays coaches want to see from their role players either in a starting lineup or coming off the bench.
Like I said earlier, Payton II can make the right passes on offense and isn't a complete negative.
If he's given the space to attack the rim because of his shot, the aforementioned finishing at the rim is a plus and despite not having a great handle, there's brief glimpses of him being a playmaker.
A press like that is designed to exploit Payton's ability as a point guard and he dismantles it in a hurry.
Payton wont't be able to create his own offense, but teams don't need him to. For how good he could be on defense, that shouldn't be such a detriment to his stock.
Conclusion and fit with the Suns
If it wasn't obvious to you, I'm a big fan of Payton.
In a draft with so many question marks across the board, Payton has a significant skill on defense that is nearly ready for the NBA, and he contributes in many other areas that -- let me put on my talking head hat... hold on... adjusting... that's good -- help a team win basketball games.
Look at what happened to another former Pac-12 player Andre Roberson. There was no doubt about Roberson as a defender, rebounder and transitioning all that to the NBA. The problem was his offense and it still is, but because of that, he went 26th in the first round and could have gone much later if wasn't for the Thunder reaching on him.
Roberson was recently the sixth-best player on the court in a conference finals matchup between two amazing teams at only 24 years of age because of those defensive skills.
That's what Payton could bring to a team, and his below average point guard skills are just enough to keep him on the floor as the minor changes to his defensive game -- like Roberson needed -- help him grow into an impact player.
The Suns need good defenders and a backup point guard. Payton is at least both in the NBA in my opinion, and there's a very good chance he's available for Phoenix at either 28 or 34. He's a no-brainer at that spot if the Suns haven't selected a point guard.
If all goes well and Payton exceeds expectations, what he does on the court meshes tremendously with what Devin Booker has already shown he can do. That type of value in the latter stages of this draft is fantastic and should be capitalized on by the Suns.