Adreian Payne is Stretch-Four Houston Rockets Have Been Looking For

By Mike De Moor
Adreian Payne
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For years now, fans of the Houston Rockets have been hearing about a stretch-4 coming to H-Town. Well, that time may finally be coming.

The Rockets have a power forward of the future in Terrence Jones, but they could definitely use a little more depth in the front court, especially with Omer Asik possibly being dealt in the offseason. Yes, the Rockets have Donatas Motiejunas, who has only played two years in the league, but his lack of progress over the last two seasons has been worrisome.

Since Daryl Morey became Houston’s general manager in 2007, the Rockets have been looking for a power forward who could stretch the floor. Luis Scola was great for the Rockets, but he never had three-point range. Patrick Patterson only added the three ball to his repertoire during his last half-season with Houston, but didn’t shoot it all that effectively.

Before this current season began, there were rumors of Houston dealing Asik for Ryan Anderson, who is one of the league’s premier stretch-4’s, but the deal never happened, leaving Houston without the floor-spacing 4 that it so desperately wanted.

Heading into the 2014 NBA draft, there’s one stretch-4 who Morey will definitely have his eyes on: Adreian Payne. The 23-year-old Payne played four years of college ball under Tom Izzo at Michigan State, which means that he understands defensive principles and he can take verbal abuse (I love Izzo, but he’s definitely made some freshman cry in practice).

Payne, who averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game his senior year, has NBA range and an NBA-ready body at 6-10, 245. Like Shabazz Napier, Payne could slip to the Rockets if the teams picking before them put too much weight into his age, choosing for the wonders of upside instead (ask the guys who drafted Mouhamed Sene what he thinks about upside).

In most drafts, Payne would be a top ten pick due to his legitimate size and shooting ability, but this year’s draft is jam-packed with talent, which means that the top-tier teams picking in the late 20s could grab impact players (and it also means that the teams picking in the late 20s might actually keep their picks instead of drafting international guys who will never come over or selling their draft picks to another team).

To me, Payne has the potential to be a Serge Ibaka-type offensively, while doubling as a strong back-to-the-basket defender. On the flip side, my worry is that Payne will become another Marreese Speights; just some run-in-the-mill backup big who was never able to put his physical tools to good use.

Mike De Moor is an NBA writer for Follow him on Twitter @MikeDeMoor, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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