This is the 11th in a daily look at the top prospects in the NBA Draft: Their strengths, their weaknesses, and whether or not they're a fit for the Celtics. Today's prospect: Adreian Payne of Michigan State.
ADREIAN PAYNE, Michigan State
6-foot-10, 239 pounds
HIS STORY: Adreian Payne has the dubious distinction of being part of the first Michigan State four-year class under Tom Izzo to not play in a Final Four. They were bounced in the Elite Eight by eventual champ UConn. The Spartans were a loaded with talent and experience, but battled injuries. Payne was one of the most snakebit. He missed seven games through the brutal Big Ten schedule with an ankle injury, but that was not the worst of it. About a month ago, it became known that Payne played the second half of the season with mononucleosis. Through all this, he still managed to score 16.4 ppg and 7.3 rpg as one of the most versatile power forwards in the country. He shot an impressive 42.3 percent from three and 53.6 percent from two. He now says he’s fully healthy, just started working out a couple weeks ago, and is trying to get his body and conditioning back to 100 percent.
HIS STENGTHS: A complete offensive game as a highly-skilled stretch 4. He can consistently knock down the three off the catch-and-shoot and, at times, off the move as the trail man in the Spartans' secondary break. In pick-and-pop situations, he’s deadly. When defenders are closing out to him, he has the ability to go by guys, finish well above the rim or pull up under control and knock down a jumper like a shooting guard. At 6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan, he’s able to shoot over defenders on the perimeter or the post. With his back to the basket, he has good footwork to get around defenders and tremendous touch with either hand. Payne is a very good athlete and a quick jumper. Every time I watched him play live, I came away more impressed with his athleticism, grace and ability to make plays offensively.
HIS WEAKNESSES: Defensively Payne is good, but not great. His lateral quickness is average and he has tendency to play a lot with his hands (3.7 fouls committed per 40 minutes, via kenpom.com). In the NBA, the whistles will be more frequent and consistent than they were in college. That said, he did set a Michigan State career record with 141 blocks, so his length and athleticism will help him make up for mistakes at the next level. As skilled as Payne is, I’m interested to see if he can develop dribble moves to create shots. He was able to create in college but mostly off closeout situations. If he adds some strong moves off the bounce, he will be incredibly difficult to defend at the next level.
IS HE A FIT FOR THE CELTICS? Throughout evaluating these prospects on CSNNE.com, I’ve said a number of guys were poor man’s versions of Jared Sullinger. I think Payne is a more skilled and athletic version of Sully, with a higher ceiling. Brad Stevens wants his 4 man to stretch the floor and knock down threes (Sullinger shot 2.8 threes per game, but only made 26.9 percent). Payne can add this element but also complement that with scoring from other parts of the floor and be a solid rebounder. He’s 23 which makes him one of the oldest prospects in the draft, but this may not hurt him as much as others. Payne was a late bloomer in terms of his body and development of his game. Many GMs think there are still more levels for him to reach. Payne could go before the Celtics No. 17 pick. If he’s on the board, I think the C’s should look long and hard at him because he could step in next season and add to this Celtics team. Particularly in their biggest area of need: scoring.
Coming on SATURDAY: T.J. Warren of North Carolina State