Concern came from some fans and the media when the Timberwolves traded a lottery-protected first round pick for Adreian Payne during last year’s trade deadline. I liked it.
I liked Adreian Payne’s body of work in college; and while he hadn’t done anything in the NBA yet, he was on an 60-win Atlanta team with an already set frontcourt. At the very least, we hadn’t seen what Payne could do in the NBA, and I liked the potential that was there.
Even after a shaky-at-best second half of his rookie season, where he saw real playing time for the Wolves, I had some hope. He was in a situation with a completely new team, and was getting his first exposure to the NBA, somewhat out of nowhere.
This season, Payne got an offseason, a training camp, a preseason, and an entire regular season to prove himself, and unfortunately, many of the issues that plagued Payne last season followed him into this season.
A top-notch leaper, and never shy of effort, Payne rebounded the ball well and never failed to run up and down the floor at a maximum level of effort. And, occasionally, he’d throw down a fierce slam.
But this season, Payne’s effort and athleticism was never the problem.
He saw his numbers drop off from his less-than-stellar rookie season in almost every category this season. He shot below 40 percent from the field, in both field goal and effective field goal percentage. His minutes, rebounds (though his rebounding percentage numbers did improve), and everything else went down. All in a season with several injuries in the frontcourt, and several opportunities to assert himself. Numbers-wise, it was not great for Payne.
If we’re looking at just the eye test, it wasn’t much better. Again, his problems rarely stemmed from a lack of effort, but rather from a lack of focus. On defense, Payne was often seen out of position, especially when his man would screen for the ball handling guard. Offensively, his shot selection was often questionable at best. It wasn’t uncommon to see him trying to take matters into his own hands pulling up for a jumper, or taking his defender off the dribble.
None of this is to say that all hope is lost for Adreian Payne, but next season might be make-or-break for him. He is coming into his third year in the NBA, and he’ll now have a full year of tutiledge under Kevin Garnett under his belt. Now, he’ll have Tom Thibodeau, maybe the best possible coach to bring out his best on the defensive end. That is the end where he still has a chance to make a positive impact in the NBA going forward, and next year will be the time to show it off.
We know the effort will be there. We know the athleticism will be there. Whether or not everything else will come with it is the question.