Roster Review: Adreian Payne


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.

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9 Responsesso far.

  1. gjk says:

    Even if he became a consistent 3 point threat, there would some value in the other things he brings; there are a lot of space cases who play because they can make 3s and play energetically. He’s a good defensive rebounder and average at getting steals and blocks, but his shooting numbers were just atrocious. I just remember one particularly terrible stint where he played like 3 minutes in the 2nd quarter and the Wolves were like -13 in that span; that seemed to encapsulate his season for me in that it wasn’t completely his fault, but the team usually played badly when he was on the floor. Only Pek and Smith had worse on/off numbers.

  2. fehler says:

    Didn’t he have a D-League stint? Did he show anything there that looked promising? Payne is young enough for another chance, but I wouldn’t scream if someone traded him for a high second-round pick.

    • FNorth says:

      He actually played pretty well in the D league I don’t remember his numbers but something close to 20 and 10 but it was only a few games.
      I have to say I could have wrote every word Tim did. I liked Payne’s college game. I thought he was going to be a nice stretch 4 who could rebound. But last year there were times I just felt he didn’t have any coordination or recognition as to what was going on around him.
      I am not sure he ever will be even close to what I thought he would be.

  3. mikeskunes says:

    I still have hope for Payne to be a productive NBA player, but I also wouldn’t be sad if we moved on from him. He’s the PF version of a Gerald Green or JaVale McGee in my eyes. He’s got a great motor, is very bouncy, and seems like a solid-human being. But he seems like a guy who can’t see the difference between himself and Towns. He’s sees how versatile Towns is when he makes fantastic weakside blocks, spot-up shots from 16-23ft, and makes plays off the dribble and he thinks… “Well, I can do those things, too.” Except he can’t on a consistent enough basis to make a difference. He constantly loses his man on D, whiffs on weakside blocks, and mucks up the offense by being a ball-stopper or shooting inefficient spot up J’s. Payne could be an excellent role player if he figures out how to stay positioned on D and became a voracious offensive rebounder. But he tends to stand too far away from the basket on O hurting his ability to get put-backs without being the floor-spacing threat he thinks he is.

  4. Tom says:

    All I see is an older Stromile Swift. If Tibs can get this guy to at least be a Bismack Byombo, shot-blocker, rebounder, he should be coach of the year.

  5. pyrrol says:

    You can’t teach ‘feel for the game’. You can teach guys, they can play until they feel very comfortable with the game and how they fit into it, but there is something else–an instinct for basketball that can’t be taught, only harnessed. And this ‘feel for the game’ is on a large continuum. On the good end are guys like Rubio and Towns. Payne is on the bad end.

    That said, the trade wasn’t so bad. There was some promise… why not give it a try? A pick in that area is hit and miss just like a chance on Payne is. I have low expectations for Payne going forward. But he could be a useful bench piece with the right coaching and niche. He doesn’t have a real niche yet and let’s face it, our coaching has lagged behind for quite a while. Hopefully our coaching is about to get markedly better. Thibs hasn’t done anything yet, but he speaks with definite goals and focus in a way that is foreign to recent Wolves teams.

    Eye test is such an odd thing to say (but very popular). Like watching a game or a player isn’t the main way to analyze it. I get the importance of stats. But observation with eyes will always be a main method of enjoying and analyzing games and players.

  6. Berdj Rassam says:

    Last year he played more and was therefore more productive. Still at 6’10” and from a great college basketball school like MSU, many expected more from him than he has delivered.

  7. College Wolf says:

    He’s terrible. Do whatever we can to get rid of him.

  8. Matt says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with the Swift comp or Bismack hope. Bismack is a defensive terror with stone hands. The only thing that Payne does well is jump. The Wolves were given Cs and Ds of a rating during the trade simply because Payne was burried to Atlanta’s D league in favor of a 2nd round rookie and should have cost a 2nd rounder. I would cut our losses and get back from someone what we should have paid, a conditional 2nd rounder. That roster spot could go to a more expensive but actually useful rotation veteran.

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