2016-17 Roster Review: Adreian Payne

As a follower of the Minnesota Timberwolves, I’ve spent a lot of time watching highlights of prospective draftees over the years. Whenever I watch one of the fantastic video breakdowns that Draft Express puts out, I sort of have this internal dialogue with myself, weighing the pros and cons of the player before me. I’ll never forget the leadup to the 2014 Draft, the second of Flip Saunders’ reign as President, and the first since he announced he was heading back to the bench as head coach. Amid the swirling Kevin Love rumors and intense roster uncertainty, the Wolves had the 13th overall pick.

I put together a short list of potential targets at that spot, which included names like Gary Harris, Dario Saric, Elfrid Payton, Rodney Hood… and Adreian Payne. The excerpt on Payne is as follows:

I had this nagging little thought when I watched video of Payne at Michigan State, but I ignored it, and I shouldn’t have, because it turned out to be right. I watched this 6’10 guy dribble around and shoot long twos (and a few threes), playing all lanky and quasi-uncoordinated, but with boatloads of confidence, and I thought, “Well, what if he’s Channing Frye? Payne shot 42% from three his senior year. Maybe he can be Channing Frye, with a little bit of coaching. Yeah, Channing Frye who can dribble. That’d be cool!”

And then a little voice answered back, “Maybe he’s Andray Friggin’ Blatche, the notorious Blatche, the Very Bad Player.”

Turns out, Payne became neither. He made 23% of his outside shots in three NBA seasons, so uh, he definitely never became Frye. Even Blatche eeked out more than 550 games and nearly 200 starts over 9 seasons on (mostly) very bad teams. Payne played 99 games over three seasons with the Timberwolves, and just 18 this season. His option for 2017-18 was declined last fall, and there’s almost no chance he’s on an NBA roster come opening night. He’s neither Frye, nor Blatche. He’s much, much worse. He’s a future backup in the Chinese Basketball Association.

So obviously, I was wrong when I reacted to the Wolves’ selection of Zach LaVine with the following tweet:

And in February, 2015, when the Hawks fleeced Flip for future 1st-round pick (protected from 2017-2020), I reacted wrongly. Again.

In my defense, lots of people liked Payne. The red flags that seem obvious now were not so obvious at the time. Some really, really smart people agreed that Payne was the best fit for the Wolves in that spot. C’est la vie.

There’s not a whole lot else to say, but here are some bullet points about Payne’s 2016-17 season:

  • Averaged 3.5 points and 1.8 rebounds on 43% field goal shooting in 18 games.
  • Eight of his 18 appearances came in games decided by 20 points or more, meaning he was either a human victory cigar or white flag.
  • On a serious note, he beat a pretty scary blood disorder that struck in February, which was great to see.
  • Also on a serious note, Adreian seems like an alright guy. He seemed like a good teammate, and when he did play, he went all-out. He is, to be frank, just not that good at basketball. Hopefully, there are overseas opportunities for him going forward. It’s difficult to imagine him making another roster without some serious improvement first.
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One Responseso far.

  1. gjk says:

    How about no trading future 1sts for, like, 10 years. I’m still scarred by their 10-plus year run of always having that lottery protection hanging over their heads for either a marginal player or one that’s long gone.

    It’s not shocking that Payne didn’t work, seeing what his college game translated into in the NBA, but he seemed like such an ideal fit at the time.

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