By Randy Renner
Most NBA Draft experts continue to predict the Thunder will take Murray State point guard Cameron Payne if he's still on the board when the Thunder pick at #14. There's a chance Indiana could step in and take Payne with their 11th pick and that may be another reason why the Thunder have been working the phones so much lately trying to move up.
So far they haven't had any success dangling the names Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb and Steve Novak.
Why so much interest by the Thunder in Cameron Payne? Well they have a need at point guard for one thing. Russell Westbrook and D.J. Augustin are the only PGs on the roster and Augustin is heading into the last year of his contract. Payne could learn under him this season, then step into the backup role next season and if (God forbid) Westbrook decides to leave after the next season, Payne could be a guy who could step in there too.
Of course you could also make a pretty darn good argument the Thunder should draft a small forward like say Kelly Oubre or Sam Dekker because neither Jones nor Kyle Singler was very impressive as Kevin Durant's backup and KD is heading into the last year of his contract and so (God forbid) if he decides to leave the Thunder would need someone to step into that role quickly. Not that Oubre, Dekker or anyone else that might be available at #14 in this draft could replace Durant and that's what brings us back to Payne.
The outstanding website DraftExpress.com went deep into statistical information to come up with the best shot creators available in this draft and guess what? Cameron Payne finished a close second to DeAngelo Russell in the overall ratings. Russell may very well go second overall to Lakers and is beyond the Thunder's reach.
As far has points and shooting percentage Payne finished first, by quite a margin and his numbers compared very favorably to Westbrook, who led the NBA in both categories.
Payne averaged 29 points per 40 minutes last season on a true shooting percentage (a metric based on a combination of 2-point, 3-point and free throw percentages) of 57.3 percent. Westbrook averaged 31.7 points per 40 minutes on 53.6 percent.
In points via assists Payne averaged 20.2 (tied for second with another point guard the Thunder have had in for workouts, Tyus Jones) and seven of those points came in transition. Westbrook averaged 21.6 and 5.8.
In isolation plays, Payne led all prospects averaging 5.9 points per 40 minutes and 1.12 points per isolation possession. James Harden led the NBA in that category last season averaging 7.6 and 1.01. Kevin Durant averaged 4.7 points per 40 minutes on isolation plays and 1.25 points per possession.
Already you can start to see how impressive Payne's numbers are.
In pick and roll points, Payne finished just behind Delon Wright at 7.0 points per 40 minutes, Wright averaged 7.1. And Payne averaged 0.92 points per P&R possession. Chris Paul averaged 0.97 points per possession off pick and roll plays.
Overall DraftExpress.com had Russell number one and Payne a very close second as the best shot creator in the draft. A couple of other players the Thunder have had in for workouts also finished very high in those rankings, Jerian Grant was third and Tyus Jones fifth.
It's a fascinating study and you can see all of the numbers at DraftExpress.com