This year’s draft class is one of the best in recent memory not only due to the superior talent at the top but also the amount of quality depth. There is no doubt that there will be multiple players drafted outside the top 14 selections in this year’s NBA Draft who will have an impact in the league next season.
Michigan State big man Adreian Payne is one of the top seniors in this year’s draft class. Payne, the second best stretch forward in the draft behind Noah Vonleh, is a surprisingly good shooter with a 25-foot range (44-for-104, 42.3 percent from behind the arc this season). He is an athletic 6-foot-10 and is able to dominate both in the paint and on the glass. Along with his exceptional and diverse offensive skill set, Payne is also an above average defender with the quickness to close out on perimeter shooters.
Although Payne is 23 years old, which is seen as a negative by some, he still needs to add strength to be able to handle and defend at his position in the NBA. Payne will also need to prove he can play in a non-Tom Izzo style offense that was incredibly structured. But let’s be honest here. If Payne were three years younger, he’d be a top five selection even in this draft, which is just an incredibly sad statement.
Payne has been rumored to be a top target for the Chicago Bulls since March, and it makes a lot of sense. Payne can provide offensive production off the bench and spread the floor with his shooting without compromising the team on the defensive end of the court — something veteran Carlos Boozer has never been able to do for the Bulls. With Boozer likely departing this summer in some form or another, splitting time with Taj Gibson at the four position adds depth and scoring in a frontcourt that needs both.
With the way the league has evolved over the past few years, the demand for “stretch-four” type players has increased significantly. That fact alone could elevate Payne’s stock on draft day.
Payne’s game and skill set is almost of a mirror image of former Spartan and current Golden State Warrior Draymond Green. Both are accomplished shooters from three-point range and are equally as effective defending and rebounding the basketball. Payne and Green spent two seasons at Michigan State together.
In his final season with the Spartans, Payne averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. In this year’s NCAA Tournament, Payne helped lead Michigan State to an Elite 8 appearance that included a 41-point outburst against Delaware in the second round of the tournament.