With more emphasis place on upside with today’s NBA draft prospects than production at the college level, Adreian Payne won’t be an early first-round draft pick come June. He likely won’t even be a lottery pick barring a miraculous NCAA Tournament.
Payne has been off the floor more than he has been on it in his senior season with Michigan State. A trendy pick for the Final Four, Michigan State has the health of Payne and Travis Trice to thank. For what it’s worth, President Obama selected the Spartans to win it all, citing Tom Izzo’s championship pedigree as a major factor.
Michigan State took on Delaware on Thursday for the opportunity to be a part of the 32 teams advancing to the next round. Unlike many of the nation’s top teams, the Spartans were able to avoid an early upset. While Izzo’s other NBA prospect Gary Harris struggled to an extent, Payne put the team on his back and refused to lose.
In just 24 minutes of action, Payne managed to put up a monstrous line of 41 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including 17-of-17 from the free-throw line and 4-of-5 from deep, and 8 rebounds in route to one of the more memorable individual performances in an early tournament match-up.
Payne projects to be a stretch-4 in the NBA, but unlike most that possess his unique skill set, he has the toughness and basketball IQ to go with it.
The 41-point performance was the first of its kind since 2008 when Stephen Curry lit up the Gonzaga Bulldogs in a Davidson win. In addition, Payne set the Michigan State record for scoring in a tournament game. Greg Kesler dropped 34 during the Magic Johnson led Spartans’ title run in 1979.
Regardless of the fact that Payne is a senior, he clearly made the right decision to return to the green-and-white. His game is on another level now that he is healthy, and his performance along with the plethora of talent that surrounds him is why Michigan State is being picked by many as the favorite to cut down the nets.
If Payne can continue to produce close to this level, his draft stock should skyrocket, especially as he begins to play against better competition. Nevertheless, Payne has the attention of NBA scouts now.