With the 15th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks selected Adreian Payne, out of Michigan State University. The news is hours old, and the it’s time to reflect on what it means for the franchise going forward.
My first reaction was sheer shock. I fully expected the Hawks to supplement their weak wing core by selecting from a group of Gary Harris, James Young, Rodney Hood, Kyle Anderson and others. However, none would hear their name called until later in the first round of the 2014 Draft.
Atlanta’s can pencil-in a starting lineup of Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Horford assuming health, so holding the first post-lottery pick in a strong draft was an enviable position to bolster their inconsistent bench.
Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry watched his former colleagues in San Antonio take home their fifth Larry O’Brien trophy just weeks ago with an amazing display of depth and selflessness from the players. In order for the Hawks to finally bring a first NBA championship to Atlanta, Ferry & Co. should continue following the blueprint set by Spurs brass Peter Holt (owner), R.C. Buford (general manager) and Gregg Popovich (head coach).
There has been a noted penchant for international players between the Spurs and the recent Hawks teams. San Antonio was represented by seven different non-US countries, stopping at no end of the Earth to uncover possible talent to help the club, last season in their title run. Atlanta followed suit with the scouting and drafting, selecting Spanish center Lucas Nogueira and German point guard Dennis Schroder in the first round of last year’s NBA draft.
A year before that, in 2012, Atlanta selected a pair of multi-year college players in junior John Jenkins (1st-rd) and senior Mike Scott (2nd-rd).
Clearly, a theme had emerged.
Surprise surprise: 2014 first-round pick Adreian Payne is another four-year player with pick-and-pop skills. He could be the cheap replacement for the fan favorite Mike Scott.
Like Scott, Payne comes into the league at the ripe age of 23, with many years of organized basketball under his belt.
A five-star player out of the Dayton, Ohio area, Payne struggled to find his niche offensively initially under the tutelage of the great Tom Izzo. However, he took large steps during his career as a Spartan. By his senior season, he had grown into a complete player, averaging over 16 points and 7 rebounds per game, while even flashing some three-point shooting ability. Payne became proficient in the post, spotting up — from close or far range — and even became a better passer in the paint as a result.
Ferry had this to say about Payne’s game:
Danny Ferry: "We like to play with pace and space. Adreian can run, he can shoot, he works hard…We're excited to have him."
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) June 27, 2014
It might also bring up a decision for Lucas Nogueira to possibly start the season overseas again, as Payne might alleviate the need for another big. He may also be able to play as a “small-ball” center with a height of 6’10″ and a wingspan of 7’4″. He is the owner of a wide body but is incredibly mobile for his size. Payne weighed in at 239 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine, but that figure seems generous upon witnessing him move up and down the court.
Payne is also known off the court for his relationship with a young terminally ill fan, Lacey Holsworth.
In the end, Payne is a quality player and deserving of a 15th overall selection, but his fit with the Hawks will be determined.
He will have a lot of healthy competition for playing time with the Paul Millsap /Al Horford duo as well as the rangy Pero Antic, the lengthy Mike Muscala, and whoever else the Hawks bring in this offseason, including a possible re-signing of Mike Scott and/or the arrival of Nogueira in Atlanta.
In a crowded frontcourt, the Hawks tacked yet another player to the roster on draft night. But minutes may be hard to come by come for Payne this October and beyond.
Does this mean a roster shakedown is in store once free agency opens up in July? No, I’m confident that management has their ducks in a row.
Payne is a questionable fit as it stands, but there will be a long offseason. Good player, now time to make a good fit.