Adreian Payne is currently the player DraftExpress.com has as the most likely pick for the Raptors and is certainly the type of player I can see Masai Ujiri drafting.
Payne is a 6’9-ish power forward with a 7’3 wingspans who, as a senior at Michigan State, averaged 16.4 ppg and shot 42.3% from beyond the arc, while grabbing 7.3 rebounds in just 28.1 mpg. He can jump out of the gym, plays with an enthusiasm and hustle that might make Raptor fans think of Amir Johnson. And he’s as friendly and likeable off the court as Amir, too.
In fact, Payne might be better known off the court, for many, for his friendship with a little girl with cancer…
Of course, it’s what Payne does on the court that will determine his NBA future. And Payne has plenty of skills. While he’s a ferocious dunker who could end up winning an NBA dunk contest in the future, he has become a very good three point shooter, after playing a traditional centre roll early in his career. He is also a decent ball handler, for his size, being able to get by defenders who try and run him off the three point line.
Payne isn’t just a shooter. He’s got a soft touch in the paint, and can score in a variety of ways, befitting a man his size. He’s got a good post game and the ability to score with either hand.
He’s also a good rebounder, especially on the defensive boards, and there usually isn’t a player on the court who hustles more than Payne. And as Pat Riley famously said, hustle IS a skill.
Obviously, he’s got his weaknesses, though, which is why he’s projected to be available at 20.
While Payne is certainly a willing defender, he’s not often a very good one. His biggest problem is simply that he has poor defensive instincts, which is why a player of his size and leaping ability wasn’t able to block even one shot a game. He’ll too often be out of position, lose his man and/or the ball and be late on rotations.
And that brings up another issue, which is a fairly low basketball IQ. And to make matters worse, Payne is a relatively old 23 years old, so you’re not likely to see much improvement in his game. If you draft Payne, you’re getting what he is, not what he might become. And what he is is a hustling, athletic big man who can hit the three but won’t help you on the defensive end.
Payne would certainly fit in with the Raptors, and would provide insurance in case Patrick Patterson doesn’t return. In fact, Payne is almost a hybrid of Amir and Patterson.
What should be the most concerning thing for the Raptors is his poor defensive instincts and low basketball IQ. Yes, Payne’s got hustle and skills, but if he’s going to hurt you by missing rotations or making bad decisions on the court, he’s not going to help you.
Payne’s had good coaching and played four years of college ball, and the way he transformed his game from a back to the basket center to a stretch four is an indication of how hard a worker Payne is. You could certainly do worse than Payne and he’s the type of player that Raptor fans would love.
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