Welcome to our Phoenix Suns Season in Review series where we do individual PLAYER REVIEWS of each man that contributed in the 2022-23 season. We go through the roster to analyze what went right/wrong for them, and what they can do to get better for next season.
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- Position: Point guard
- Vitals: 6’1” tall, 183 pounds, 28 years old
- Experience: 8 years
- Stats (regular season): 10.3 PPG, 4.5 APG, 2.2 RPG, 41.5 FG%, 36.8 3PT%, 76.6 FT%
Regular Season Recap
Cameron Payne came into the season in a familiar spot as back-up to Chris Paul. But with hopes that the team would temper Paul’s minutes and the expectation that, either way, CP3 would likely miss time due to injury, there would be an opportunity for him to show what he could do in the starter role.
Sure enough, that opportunity came early in the season, when Payne started 14 straight games between November 9 and December 5. And he did not disappoint, as he averaged 15.1 points and 7.3 assists over that span - while shooting 39.5% from three and committing only 2.2 turnovers per game.
Perhaps his best performance of this stretch came in a 130-119 victory over the Golden State Warriors, in which Payne scored 29 points, dished out 7 assists, and went 6 for 10 from beyond the arc.
Then, this happened…
INJURY UPDATE: Deandre Ayton (left ankle) and Cameron Payne (right foot) both will not return.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 14, 2022
After coming out of that December 13 (Happy Birthday, Taylor Swift) game, Payne missed 30 of the next 32. When he returned, much like his return from missing time the season before, he never seemed to entirely click on all cylinders.
Continuing on the injury theme, Payne missed the last game of the regular season and then the first four games of the series against the Los Angeles Clippers. When he returned, he averaged just 4.3 points and 3.0 assists on 34.4% shooting and 22.2% from three over his first six games. So, the initial results were underwhelming to say the least.
Until, of course, Game 6 against the Denver Nuggets. In yet another demoralizing playoff exit, Cam Payne offered the one silver lining:
Payne is a player who has the ability to provide an offensive spark when needed by the Suns. CP15 also proved to be a capable starter in limited opportunities. The stat line he put up in the 14 games referenced above (15.1/7.3/39.5 3P%) rivaled the line put up by CP3 over the season (13.9, 8.9/37.5 3P%).
Payne also brings intangibles to the team. He brings energy to the floor that can be contagious (in a positive way), and with Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges no longer with the Suns, Payne is left on his own to carry that torch.
Off the floor, Payne was one of only 10 players across the NBA to be nominated for the Bob Lanier Community Assist Award. So, his impact on the community is also something that cannot be ignored.
Consistency. Over the past two seasons (and going back to the 2020-21 NBA Playoffs), Cameron Payne has shown flashes of being a productive, capable scorer and facilitator. But every season, he gets derailed by injuries. And when he returns from those injuries, those flashes he’s shown are often missing. The ridiculous shots he often takes go in when he’s clicking, but when he is not clicking, they are just ridiculous shots.
Ultimately, Payne is a guy who seems to play best when he is getting consistent opportunities. His injury history is costing him those opportunities and, quite possibly, costing him the chance to show that he can be a consistent option for the Suns.
- Cameron Payne is entering the last year of a three-year contract. He is set to make $6.5 million in the 2023-24 season, but his contract is only partially-guaranteed for $2 million. It becomes fully-guaranteed on June 29, 2023.
With the Suns picking up Bradley Beal via trade with the Washington Wizards, one must assume that next season will see Cameron Payne continue his role off the bench. As the roster currently stands, the Suns need a spark off the bench and $6.5 million is a reasonable price for what Payne can potentially offer to the team.
- Overall grade as an NBA player: B-
- Relative grade to preseason expectations: C+
How would you grade Cam Payne’s season?
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