OKC Thunder Draft: Is Cameron Payne a Good Fit?


With only about a month left until the 2015 NBA Draft there are plenty of rumors surrounding the spectacle. The latest rumor involving the OKC Thunder is based on a recent online chat with ESPN’s Chard Ford. He stated that “there’s been a lot of buzz among rival GM’s that the Thunder promised Cameron Payne they’d take him at 14.”

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He also said that he didn’t know “how much of that is smoke” but, regardless, this is huge news out of OKC. If this is a true indication as to who Sam Presti, Billy Donovan, and the Thunder will take in the upcoming draft, then it’s probably best to take a closer look at Cameron Payne and see how he would fit into the team.

The 6’2 point guard from Murray State University is rising fast up draft boards as of late. Many mock drafts have him being selected at number 14, which is subsequently where the Thunder are picking.

Last year for the Racers – Payne’s sophomore season – he averaged 20.2 points , 6.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game, shooting 45.6 percent on all field-goal attempts, 37.7 percent on 3-pointers and 78.7 percent on free throws. His statistical production, in combination with the success his team achieved, led to Payne winning the Ohio State Valley Conference MVP this last season.

Payne is considered an average athlete although he measured fairly well at the draft combine. The 6’2 skinny-framed PG weighed in at just 183 pounds with an impressive 6’7.25” wingspan and a max vertical jump at 35.5″. Draft-Express.com compared Payne, in terms of his measurements, to  Atlanta Hawks All-Star Jeff Teague.

Payne is surely a first round talent in the upcoming draft and he also shows tremendous upside. He seems to have the ability to play at a high-level and be a capable scorer in the NBA.

But is he a good fit for the Oklahoma City Thunder?

The Thunder currently have two point guards on their roster in Russell Westbrook and D.J. Augustin. Westbrook is obviously the starter for the team but the backup role is less secure.

Augustin played well after he was acquired by the Thunder late last season, averaging 7.3 PPG, 3.1 APG, and 2.2 RPG in 35 games. He was strong off the bench and ran the second team offense fairly well. Augustin doesn’t do anything particularly great but he is a good all-around reserve. He can shoot, pass, and defend at a decent rate. But would Payne actually be an upgrade over Augustin?

I believe that Payne could be a great scorer and facilitator off the bench. Payne is left-handed, has a sweet looking stroke and has the ability to shoot threes off the dribble, by spotting up, or off of a screen.

His troubles present themselves when he has to attack the rim. He doesn’t have great athleticism or a big body to be able to take contact down low. He also does not have blow by speed to beat his defender off the dribble.

This is his greatest weakness in his game but it isn’t like he is a horrible finisher. He has the shot making ability to finish down low. It is simply a place where improvement is needed, something Payne admitted in an interview during the recently-concluded NBA Draft Combine (courtesy of The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry). When asked what he has to work on the most, Payne responded:

"It’s definitely going to be the change of pace and my strength. I’ve definitely been doing that, getting ready for the draft. I’ve definitely been in the weight room a lot trying to get bigger."

Payne’s passing ability might be his greatest asset on the floor. He knows how to run a team and has the experience to do so as well. If he were to be the back-up point for OKC he would be able to slide in with the second team and take control of a game. He could also mesh well with the first team with his shooting ability and ability to see the floor and facilitate to teammates. He posted a 2.4:1 assist to turnover ratio last year for Murray State. He also assisted on 40% of his team’s made shots while he was on the floor.

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Payne has the intangibles to be an above-average defender in the NBA. He also has great length (6’7 wingspan) and enough speed to keep up with most NBA guards.

As an overall NBA player, I think Payne can be productive and I believe that he will do so well. He has everything he needs to be a good player in the league. He can shoot the three-point shot which OKC could use out of their guards.

He can also defend at an average rate, an area of need for Oklahoma City Thunder. He has great vision on the floor,something that some would say has been lacking from point guards for OKC, including Westbrook, Augustin and the now-departed Reggie Jackson. The upside for Payne could be huge in the Association and he has the skills to possibly become a starter one day.

But in terms of fit with the Thunder, I belive he would fit perfectly. He has everything that the team needs from a backup guard. And if it is true that OKC has promised him that they would draft him, then I believe it would be a great pick for the team this year and going forward. The team doesn’t have many needs but if they can improve at one position through the draft then they have to take someone that is capable of that.

Payne could be that player.