Thunder Draft Preview (Adreian Payne)

By Randy Renner

As Thursday’s NBA Draft gets closer we’re continuing our look at some of the players who could be available for the Thunder with either the 21st or 29th selection.

Either or both picks could be traded if the Thunder believe they will not be able to get a player they’ve targeted at those spots. Thunder GM Sam Presti made it clear earlier this month he and his staff prefer to “select” a player rather than merely “pick” one who happens to be available.

With the various scenarios in play this should be a fun week.

Remember our InsideThunder.com team will be in place Thursday night at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center to provide full coverage of Thunder Draft Night 2014.

ADREIAN PAYNE (Power Forward, Michigan State)

Adreian Payne has improved his game and his body since he’s been at Michigan State. He’s about an inch taller than he was at the LeBron James camp in 2009 and he’s put on about 25 pounds. His wingspan has gone from 7-0 to 7-4 and at 6-10, 240 he has great size for the “stretch 4” position he will likely play in the NBA.

With the Spartans this past season he was limited to about 28 minutes a game because of a bout with mono and the lingering effects on his lungs. Still he made the most of his time on the floor, averaging 16.4 points on 50.3 percent shooting overall and 42.3 percent beyond the arc. He also hit 79 percent of his free throws. Payne also grabbed 7.3 rebounds a game.

If the Thunder are looking for someone to get Perry Jones’ attention, Payne might be a good guy to take, at least from an offensive standpoint. As you will see later in this story Payne has some defensive deficiencies.

Payne’s roll in MSU’s offense was pretty diversified last season. According to advanced statistics from Synergy Sports Technologies he generated 27.7 percent of his offense on post ups, 20 percent from spot-up attempts, 10.5 percent in pick and roll plays, 7.8 percent on put-backs, and 7.2 percent off of cuts to the basket along the baseline.

He also managed to improve his jump shot considerably, which made up 41.8 percent of his offense and from which he scored 0.92 points per shot, making good progress in his ability to expand his range out to the collegiate 3-point line.

Payne almost came out last year but instead wanted to remain in East Lansing, his game probably benefitted from that decision. His scoring and his overall offensive efficiency was up last season over all his previous years with the Spartans. Payne finished as the ninth best scorer per minute among the Top 100 prospects at 23 points per 40 minutes.

He shot 54 percent on 2-point shots, 42 percent on threes and 79 percent from the stripe. His 61 percent total shooting percentage (which figures in everything) ranked 13th among the top 100.

He started moving out beyond the arc halfway through his junior season. He had only taken four 3-pointers in his first two-and-a-half seasons then put up 142 shots from deep in his final 50 college games. The release on his 3-point shot is a bit awkward and might remind Thunder fans of Kevin Martin because he dips the ball before bringing it back up but the motion worked great in college. He may have to change it up in the NBA with the faster closeouts and that could prove problematic.

As far as drawbacks are concerned, Payne has nice size for a stretch-4 but his lower body strength is not very good. When he tries to go inside he frequently gets pushed off his spots. That situation will be even worse in the NBA. Scouts hoped his lower body strength would have developed more during his years in college. He has added weight but not the muscle mass down low he probably needs.

Defensively his motor doesn’t run at a very high rpm. He tends to lose focus and then lose his man in on-ball situations. When he starts getting tired that situation becomes even worse.

He’ll have to pick up the pace on that end of the floor in the NBA. So although his offensive game appears to be outstanding, especially on mid-range and 3-point shots, his defense could prove to be a liability at least in the beginning.