Coming out of high school as a three star recruit no one, including Cameron Payne, expected this article to be written about him. He entered his senior year as a lanky tall kid who did not even start on his AAU team. He committed to play basketball at small Ohio Valley Conference school, Murray St. As a freshman he was not expected to play much, but ended up as a starter averaging 16.8 points and 5.4 assists. He followed up this impressive season his sophomore year leading Murray St to a 29-6 record, averaging 20.3 points and 5.8 assists a game. Murray St. was eventually upset in their conference championship game and Payne declared for the NBA Draft.
Graphic via sbnation
Cameron Payne has many strengths that make him an intriguing prospect. First off is his ability to see the entire floor and find open teammates. He is unselfish and has no problem spreading the ball around, getting everyone involved. This type of mentality is exactly what you want in your point guard. In addition, he has showed the ability to knock shots down off the dribble with a high level of consistency. He has also shown the range to knock down threes from distance. The combination of being able to both pass well and knock down NBA shots makes him a dangerous offensive threat. Defensively he is blessed with a 6’7 wingspan that can clog passing lanes, giving opposing guards trouble.
Despite the recent success of small school point guards like Steph Curry and Damian Lillard, there will always be questions regarding a small school player’s ability to step up against NBA caliber talent. Physically, Payne is not incredibly gifted with NBA athleticism. He does not have elite speed and could be slowed down because of this. Along with a lack of speed, he also has a small frame that could cause him to struggle against stronger guards. He will need to hit the weight room and get stronger. Lastly his defensive efforts have been questioned quite a bit. Given his wing span, there is no reason why he should struggle so much defensively against lesser competition.
The Thunder selected Cameron Payne with the 14th overall pick in the draft. He missed all of summer league with a broken ring finger, losing valuable time to develop and show what he can do. The Thunder are one of the most talented teams in the league and with Kevin Durant’s free agency looming they are in a win now mode. This could hurt Payne’s chances of earning playing time as they may want to lean on veteran DJ Augustin behind Russell Westbrook. If Payne cannot beat out Augustin as the backup point guard, he is talented enough that Oklahoma City could use him as a shooter off the bench while he develops. He will most likely be brought along slowly as a rookie, but look for him to make major strides in his second season.
Graphic via bleacherreport