The Chicago Bulls have had success in past drafts finding talent in the mid-to-late first round and have the opportunity to do so with the No. 16 and 19 picks in the 2014 NBA Draft. Michigan State‘s Adreian Payne would be a viable candidate and would fit right in with the Bulls.
The Bulls previously drafted Taj Gibson with the 26th pick in 2009, Jimmy Butler at 30 in 2011 and, most recently, Tony Snell at pick 20 in the 2013 draft. Chicago is also known to draft upperclassmen from winning programs such as Duke, Florida, Marquette, Kentucky and Memphis.
Michigan State is no exception to those winning programs. During his time under Tom Izzo, the Spartans went 104-41 and reached the NCAA tournament each year. They reached the Sweet Sixteen twice and made it to the Elite Eight this past season.
Maturity and experience have always been two attractive traits for the Bulls and Payne fits that mold. Payne is a 23-year-old senior who stuck around with the Spartans for all four years of his eligibility and graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.
Payne’s relationship with Lacey Holsworth, or ‘Princess Lacey’, speaks to his character—another must have trait for a Bulls draft pick. His big heart and high character are a perfect match for a Bulls team that prides itself on those intangibles.
On the court, Payne was just as impressive. Although he didn’t play heavy minutes his first two seasons at MSU, he came on strong his junior and senior seasons. His junior year, he averaged 10.5 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 55 percent from the field and 38 percent from behind the arc. His senior year was much of the same, averaging 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from the three-point line.
Payne is a stretch four, but is also effective in the post with his back to the basket. Again, true to the Bulls form, Payne is a good defender with shot-blocking ability. Chicago also likes instant-impact rookies, like Gibson, and Payne fits that bill. He is a complementary player who can come off the bench behind Gibson and provide a punch on both sides of the floor. His scoring ability is something the Bulls desperately need.
With Carlos Boozer likely to be amnestied and the uncertainty of Nikola Mirotic coming from overseas, power forward is a position of need. It is possible Payne will be off the board before the Bulls are able to select him, but if he’s there at 16, it seems unlikely the Bulls would pass up on him.