Before Michigan State’s season tipped off, Coach Tom Izzo made a comment that Adreian Payne had been developing his jumper during the offseason and was now, possibly, a threat outside of the paint.. As a fan and someone who had watched every game of his short career, I couldn’t imagine this to be true (even though it was The Word Of Izzo). I mean, in Payne’s freshman and sophomore years he NEVER put the ball up from anywhere outside of 8-feet and never showed any inkling that this would change. Going into this year he had ATTEMPTED three 3-pointers and was a hair under 64% from the line. How could he suddenly be a guy who could help stretch the floor?
Fast forward to January 10th. We’re now 16 games in to the season and Payne has taken exactly one 3-pointer (which missed), barely left his comfort zone in the paint and I’m starting to seriously doubt Izzo’s sanity. Was he ok when he said that? Was he drunk? Am I drunk?1
The next game, it was like a switch flipped. The Spartans are at home against Nebraska and Payne hoists a deep ball. Swish. He goes 6-6 that game for 14 points.
A couple days later, he and teammate Branden Dawson get into a hotel skirmish. I assume it went something like this…Dawson: “Yo dog, you’re presentation on the applications of Fourier transformations in class today was whack. And that three ball you hit last game was a fluke.” Payne: “Bitch, how many times I gotta tell you Fourier transform is widely applied in ALL fields of image analysis. And I aint no fluke outside the arc. Hand down, man down. You’ll see!” Both players were suspended for the first half of the next game for fighting.
At Penn State and fueled by rage (I can only assume), Payne comes out in the second half and hits another one from deep, 6-9 from the floor and 7-10 from the line en route to a career high 20 points (in 17 minutes mind you). And it didn’t stop there…
In 12 games since hitting his first three and unleashing that beautiful stroke, he is 10 for 18 beyond the arc including 6 of 8 in two games against Indiana. On top of that he has unleashed an array of NBA style moves. Open mid range baseline pops, turn around fade away 18-footers out of the post, spot up can’t-give-him-that-much-space-nowadays jumpers, etc. It’s been beautiful2.
Just look at this list of credentials that is in no way biased:
- 1. On offense, he’s an incredibly explosive athlete who throws down massive dunks off rebounds, alley oops, and occasionally off the dribble.
- 2. On defense he uses his long arms to protect the rim and regularly reaches to block shots that only special athletes can get to.
- 3. He has a newly found outside jumper that he can hit with a defender on him.
- 4. He’s the 4th leading rebounder in the Big Ten.
- 5. He’s 6’10”
Ok I know what you’re thinking. The NBA is full of big men that can hit outside jumpers (Kevin Love, Ryan Anderson, Channing Frye when Steve Nash played with him, Rashard Lewis once upon a time). It’s even getting to the point where they are becomingly increasingly crucial as the league shifts to smaller lineups. But how many of those guys are athletic enough to protect the rim. Most are either too soft (Frye, Lewis) or too unathletic (Love, Anderson).
Adreian Payne is evolving into something that we’ve never seen before. A Defensive Stretch 5. He’s a prototype that mixes Tyson Chandler’s rim protection with Ryan Anderson’s stroke. Ok maybe that’s too exaggerated. How about Serge Ibaka with an outside game? Still too much? My God you’re picky. Fine. Javale Mcgee with range. That one I will not back down from. This is my blog.
Teams that would benefit from a DS5
Miami Heat: Of course they don’t need it but just give it a chance. Instead of force feeding Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, or Chris Anderson into the lineup, all of which provide zero boost on offense, they could run AP out there and not give up any size on defense or the glass3. On top of that, his outside game draws the center out of the paint and allows LBJ to go to work without having to worry about a shot blocking center waiting for him. If they put a PF on Payne, Lebron uses his quickness to beat the center.
New York Knicks: Same idea goes for the Knicks. Now they don’t have to worry about sitting Tyson Chandler with Amare on the court. AP could keep their defense afloat (because Amare sure as hell can’t) and open up the paint for him to go to town.Brooklyn Nets: The Nets defense goes to shit when Lopez sits. With a DS5 they can open the paint for drives for Deron Williams. It might even up things up enough for Crash Wallace to remember how to score the ball like he did in Portland when he had Lamarcus Aldridge wandering away from the hoop.
Indiana Pacers: This team struggles with spacing and outside shooting. With a DS5 they could run a lineup with Payne-West-George while Hibbert sits. This gives them the spacing they absolutely do not have access too with their current lineup. Maybe it gives them a look that can help them legitimately contend with Miami (which isn’t the case right now4).
Atlanta Hawks: With Horford out of the paint and replaced with a legitimate kick and hit 3-point option maybe Josh Smith would stay near the basket where he belongs and stop taking outside jumpers with his heels on the arc. Probably not though.Utah Jazz: I just wanted to mention a team that’s a little off the beaten path. Al Jefferson basically runs to the low block and camps on offense. I would love to see what could happen if Paul Millsap was given a little more room.
I hate to admit it but Michigan State hasn’t put out a productive NBA player in years. Their only current (truly) productive player is Zach Randolph and he was drafted over ten years ago. Payne could buck this trend. I’m hoping that his new found success doesn’t go to his head because he could really benefit from another year in green and white. He has mental lapses (he once shot the ball in a game from a sitting position), turns it over too often on outlet passes, and could put on some weight (listed at 240 pounds). If he leaves early he could sneak in to the first round and fight for playing time ala Shannon Brown but if he waits another year, proves the shooting touch is no fluke he could be a legitimate lottery pick.
Either way, as the NBA shifts towards smaller, more athletic lineups, a Defensive Stretch 5 is the next step in the evolution of NBA players. And Adreian Payne is version 1.0.
- It’s actually been bittersweet. The better he plays the more likely it is he skips his senior year and enters the draft now. Of Branden Dawson, Gary Harris, Keith Appling and AP, it is becoming increasingly clear who would be picked first if any of them decide to leave early. This is for you guys. I really like this team.
- Payne leads the Big Ten in defensive rebounding.
- If you think the Pacers are a threat to the Heat you either a.) a member of the Pacers, b.) from Indiana, or c.) forgot that Indiana’s playoff run last year coincided with Chris Bosh getting hurt. You know, before LBJ realized that he could play any position and evolve into the most dominant, efficient player of the past decade.