The next man up in the Liberty Ballers 2014 NBA Draft Pimp Your Prospect for Non-Lottery Picks Series (catchy, isn't it) is Michigan State big man Adreian Payne. He's currently the No. 21 ranked overall prospect on the DraftExpress Top 100.
Payne's DX ranking is just slightly below his age of 23 (born Feb. 1991), which seems to be a major concern for many who are obsessed with age-related upside. But while Payne may have a limited ceiling, I still think he could be a pretty good NBA player given some proper coaching and polish.
The MSU big man measures in at 6-10, 255 lbs and has a 7-foot-4 wingspan. It's hard not to love watching him dunk. In fact, the truth is you haven't lived until you've seen Payne dunk a basketball. Especially this one:
Payne is hardly just a big man who's highly efficient on the inside. He's also proved to be an effective player from the outside. In his senior year, he hit 42.3% of his threes. He also shot 79% from the free throw line and over 50% from the field. He's also a good rebounder. His defense isn't amazing but it's satisfactory. His shot blocking is decent. I'm also a fan of his post-game. He's shown the ability to get position down low and use a number of diverse post moves.
Payne also seems to be a pretty good guy. Payne had a deep bond with an eight-year-old girl named Lacey Holsworth. Unfortunately Lacey lost her battle to cancer (RIP) early in April of this year. Payne dedicated the Los Angeles Athletic Club's Outreach Award he received to his late friend.
"She wouldn't want me to be sad. It's hard. [...] It's not just for me, it's for her. That's the main reason why I came. [...] I learned so much, just seeing her fight every day. It's really been hard. She taught me to preserve through anything and just be strong."
My friend, who's a big MSU fan, assured me that Payne truly is a hard worker. He's known for being a gym rat. He mentioned how Payne went from having no outside shot at all to becoming a threat from deep. He's long, athletic, and shows great energy at times on the court. He's also a very coachable player and was appreciated by MSU coach Tom Izzo.
LB NBA Mock Draft
LB NBA Mock Draft
Like any prospect, Payne doesn't come without his weaknesses. I already touched on age, but Payne's health is the bigger concern here. He dealt with some lower body injuries and back problems throughout college, including plantar fasciitis. Payne also has a lung ailment which has affected his stamina. It was only recently discovered that Payne played through his senior season with mononucleosis since January. While these issues are definitely concerns, I think it's also a testament to Payne's toughness to play through adversity.
Completely unrelated to injury (and easily the silliest reason here), is that his spelling of "Adreian" has me double-checking myself every time to make sure I spelled it correctly. That's precious blogging time I'm spending here, Mr. Payne.
Ultimately, I don't see the Sixers ending up with Payne. I think a team that wants to "win now" won't want to pass on on a player with Payne's high floor. Payne is currently projected to go to the Toronto Raptors at pick No. 20 in the latest DX mock draft, which fits my theory about the kind of team that will draft him. If the Sixers really want Payne, they'll probably have to find a way to trade up in to the late teens/early twenties. Pairing Payne with Nerlens Noel seems fun in my head. Payne could help to stretch the floor while Noel's presence helps him on defense.
Agian, I don't see it happening, but given some of the adversity he has recently dealt with, Payne seems like an easy player to root for no matter where he ends up.