Rookie PF Adreian Payne was playing in the D-League less than a month ago, and tonight he could be making his first NBA start.
Kevin Garnett won't be suiting up until Wednesday, and with Anthony Bennett sidelined at least two weeks with an ankle injury, Payne will have his chance to step up and prove himself against a tough Houston squad.
Timberwolves play-by-play man Alan Horton interviewed Payne during the team's morning shootaround, and he posted the following soundbite on Twitter:
The Wolves acquired Payne from the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 10 in exchange for a protected first-round draft pick.
The 6'10" forward was highly touted coming into 2014 NBA Draft, and Atlanta selected him No. 15 overall. As a senior at Michigan State, Payne averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 50.3 percent from the field. He left his marks as the Spartans' all-time leader in blocked shots, and he is one of just nine players in MSU history with over 1200 points.
Since entering the NBA, however, the rookie has not had a real chance to demonstrate if he's able to hold his own in the pros. Payne played in only three games for the well-staffed Hawks, averaging 1.7 points and 1.3 rebounds in just over six minutes of playing time.
During his time with D-League teams Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Austin Spurs, however, Payne averaged 12.9 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Upon the transaction, head coach Flip Saunders said the following of Payne:
"We are extremely excited to welcome Adreian to Minnesota. [He] fits the mold of a young, athletic and talented player who we believe will fit in well with our young and talented core. We've liked him for a while and look forward to seeing him grow with us in a Wolves uniform."
Payne made his Timberwolves debut on Feb. 20 against Phoenix. The forward played 14 minutes, but he went 0-for-5 from the field and finished the game with just a single point from the charity stripe.
Even with KG making his return to Minnesota, the veteran won't be playing anywhere near full games, and there is a void to fill at the PF position. In the time Bennett is sidelined, it's safe to say we'll be getting a much closer look at Payne and if he has what it takes to hold a spot in the NBA.