A Lesson in Payne


If you were a Thunder fan, more than likely you spent most of the day nervous.

Visions of Cole Aldrich, Andre Roberson, and Josh Huestis being taken well outside of where they were expected to be drafted danced at the back of the typical Thunder’s fans mind.

In fact, for some Thunder fans, having the 14th pick was honestly more nerve wracking than having a later selection that probably wouldn’t matter anyway. This was a lucky lottery stroke that probably won’t reoccur with the Thunder’s roster as currently constructed. The Thunder NEEDED to nail this pick.

So as the draft dragged on, the tension continued to mount. With the big man dominance that pervaded the first 10 picks, guys like Devin Booker and Justise Winslow suddenly appeared attainable. Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA’s singular source of scoops, surmised as much when he revealed that OKC was attempting to move up to get the 12th overall pick from the Utah Jazz.

But the deal never got done…and fans were forced to watch as Winslow fell to the Miami Heat at pick ten and Booker went exactly one pick before Oklahoma City made their pick, number thirteen to the Phoenix Suns. At that point, the tension was palpable. The two “steals” of the draft had nearly fallen right into the Thunder’s lap but were snatched out from underneath hopeful fans’ noses. So what now?

Hands were wrung.

“Oh God,” you probably thought to yourself, “Here comes some guy who was forecasted as a late second rounder and we’re going to reach and Bill Simmons is going to laugh at us and everything is horrible.”

And then the most obvious pick of the draft happened. The Thunder selected Cameron Payne with the 14th overall pick, after reportedly promising to do this very thing nearly a month ago. It was obvious. Why did we assume this wouldn’t happen again?

Because honestly, the more you think about it, the more it makes sense.

I mean, yeah, a wing player would have been nice. With a shooting guard rotation consisting of Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, Roberson, and (probably) Huestis, it was definitely a spot the team could have feasibly improved.

But see that’s the key word: “feasibly”

Would someone like Kelly Oubre really help the Thunder out all that much? Sure. Oubre has tons of upside. I saw some people compare him to a potentially more aggressive Rudy Gay. That would be a really good addition to OKC’s bench or as a small-ball small forward while Durant plays power forward.

That being said, I saw even more comparisons of Oubre to Jeremy Lamb. The Thunder just salary dumped THAT guy. That wouldn’t be a stellar addition to any part of the Thunder’s rotation.

And that’s the narrative for just about every perimeter player at the back end of the lottery. You don’t know what you’re getting. You may strike gold. Or you may strike out. The odds of the Thunder finding a permanent fix on the perimeter were just as good as their odds at having a wasted pick.

Live Feed

Spurs Mock Draft: San Antonio selects crafty combo guard in the lottery
Spurs Mock Draft: San Antonio selects crafty combo guard in the lottery /

Air Alamo

  • Wizards rookie Bilal Coulibaly has the NBA scouts' stamp of approvalWiz of Awes
  • Bucks 2023-24 player profile: Can Andre Jackson Jr. be an impact player?Behind the Buck Pass
  • Is the grade for the Utah Jazz's Collin Sexton fair or foul?The J-Notes
  • 3 First-Round Picks Sidy Cissoko will be better than this seasonAir Alamo
  • WNBA Playoffs 2023: 3 keys to New York Liberty and Washington Mystics matchup FanSided
  • In Payne, the Thunder have something different. He won’t be asked to fix an entire problem as a 20-year-old rookie. He’ll be asked to come in, compete, and learn how to facilitate off the bench.

    Now ask yourself – which seems more attainable?

    And perhaps more importantly, which seems more conducive to a title run? Because with Kevin Durant’s free agency looming that’s what matters most, right?

    Payne accomplishes more than just being the safe choice. While D.J. Augustin is a competent backup point guard, he’s not what I would consider to be a “complete player”. He reads the floor well and can hit an open shot but he’s too small to be much of a shot creator and is essentially a turnstile on defense.

    If Payne can pick up Donovan’s offense fairly quickly, he’ll become an immediate upgrade over Augustin. He has no trouble creating his own shot, sees the floor as well as any player in the draft, and is more than capable of locking down on defense. From a bench perspective, he allows the Thunder to get away from asking Waiters to be chief playmaker (a role that Dion has not always handled very well…at all) and can even play in the backcourt alongside Westbrook due to his strengths as a facilitator.

    Furthermore, assuming Payne develops at a reasonable rate, he makes Augustin a potential piece in a trade. Remember, folks, there’s more than one way to find a starting shooting guard.

    When asked about what player he models his game after, Payne paused and then thoughtfully answered, “Mike Conley”. Which, sure, that’s probably his ceiling. But honestly, I’m not sure he’s too far off, a terrifying concept to the rest of the Western Conference.

    So, yea, maybe Payne isn’t going to solve the Thunder’s problem on the wing. But he was still the obvious pick. And, more importantly, he was the right one.

    More from Thunderous Intentions