It looks like the Suns have filled their last roster spot with a former lottery pick who washed out of the NBA but played very well in the G-League this past season.
Point guard Cameron Payne put up big numbers for Texas in the G-league, with 23.2 points (48% shooting overall, 36.5% on 7.7 3PA), plus 8.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game (15 games) and now has what is probably a make-good contract with the Phoenix Suns through the end of the 2020-21 season.
The deal will prorate 8-games worth of salary to Payne for the Orlando Bubble, then pay him through next season. No word yet on whether next year is guaranteed, or any higher than the veteran league minimum.
Payne would become the 4th “basically league minimum” backup point guard for the Suns in Orlando, but only Ty Jerome and Payne are currently under contract for next season. Both Elie Okobo and Jevon Carter become restricted free agents at the end of this season. And we have not even mentioned Jalen Lecque, who is a 19-year old combo guard, who struggled in the G-League this year.
While Payne’s addition muddies the backup point guard role in Orlando, it portends a probable Suns plan to make Payne and Jerome the primary backups to Ricky Rubio next season, letting Okobo and Carter go.
Payne had previously been a lottery pick, taken right after Devin Booker in 2015, but washed out of the NBA after only four seasons. He has a career NBA shooting percentage of 39.7% overall, and 33.1% on threes. His highest averages in the NBA were 8.8 points and 4.5 assists in 25 games with Chicago in spring 2018.
You might remember Payne as Russell Westbrook’s often-injured backup in Oklahoma City, but mostly for his dance and dap game than his play on the court.
Maybe at age 25 in the G-League, though, Payne has found the talent that made him a lottery pick only five years ago.
Here’s a highlight game for him.