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All Aboard the Payne Train

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Adreian Payne is a really nice guy.

Adreian Payne

26 years old

Power Forward

Contract Status: $2,022,240

Numbers (per game): 7.5 minutes, 3.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, .4 assists, .4 steals, .4 blocks, 42.6% shooting.

Adreian Payne seems like a really nice guy. His friendship with 8 year old cancer patient, Lacey Holsworth, during his collegiate career led to one of the most memorable moments of the 2014 Big Ten tournament.

However, this charming, nice guy has had a difficult start to his NBA career. He starred at Michigan State, despite limited minutes due to a lung condition, but was still drafted 15th overall by Atlanta. Due to an abundance of power forwards on the Hawks, Payne was quickly dispatched to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (love that name) and Austin Spurs of the D-League before being traded to the Timberwolves in February of 2015. Adreian was a Flip guy, which gives me the feels even more, just by association. This is what Saunders had to say about Payne upon his acquisition:

“Adreian 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.”

During the ‘16-’17 season, Adreian was diagnosed with Thrombocytopenia, which, as we all know, is a disorder in which there is a relative decrease in the number of Thrombocytes in one’s blood. Payne’s low platelets kept him out for the month of February. Thankfully, his condition improved, and he was able to return for March and April. Payne was back on the bench and was able to contribute in some wins (one), but mostly losses (five) to close out the season.

With all that being said, despite seemingly being a great guy, when Payne takes the court, this is what my brain sees:

I haven’t quite figured out if Payne is the truck or the train in my mind. The truck sort of describes Payne’s incredibly slow three-point shot, just slowly meandering above the arc, indecisive, not entirely sure if it should be there or not. While the train is representative of Adreian’s drives to the rim. Straight-lined, limbs flailing, with little regard for whatever is in his path, whether it’s a red truck or a defender that’s been squared up for five seconds just waiting for a charge.

But, seriously, he’s a nice guy. Remember all the words I wrote above? It’s just his game that is somewhat of a disaster. Let’s look at this season in particular.

The Good

Adreian has the physical tools to make you believe that he could be a solid NBA player. He’s 6’10”, 240 pounds and is relatively quick and bouncy. Plus, he has a 7’4” wingspan. I’m a huge wingspan guy. I can’t get enough of that measurement. Quick fun fact; Kevin McHale is 6’10” but reportedly has a wingspan of 8’. Eight Feet!!! We should sign him.

It’s difficult to make any assessments about Adreian’s game this season due to limited minutes and being out a month with an illness, but let’s do it anyway.

He played a total of 135 minutes and displayed some improvements in nearly all statistical areas. His effective field goal percentage was 45.4%, he shot 73.7% from the line, and logged .4 shots blocked per game, all of which were the highest of his career. His Per 36 stats were 16.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.1 steals (also, 8.5 fouls but let’s ignore that). His three point numbers are...not great. He took a total of 15 and made 3 of them. I’m going to argue that it was tough for him to find a rhythm from beyond the arc with his limited minutes. Or that he’s a terrible three-point shooter. Makes sense either way.

Heading into the advanced stats, Adreian logged a player efficiency rating of 14.4. Looking at comparable PER’s across the league, Payne was in the neighborhood of some familiar names. Shabazz Muhammad (14.9), Zach Lavine (14.6), Gorgui Dieng (14.2), and Tyus Jones (13.8). Eesh. We are not efficient. Another quick fun fact: Highest PER on the Wolves, KAT at 26 (love him), lowest PER Jordan Hill at 5.5 (byeee).

Additionally, Payne’s block percentage was 4.4%. That’s the percentage of field goals blocked by a player while on the court, or as I like to call it, Wingspan Stat. Do you know who had a lower Wingspan Stat than Payne this season? Deandre Jordan. 4.3%. Suck on that, State Farm.

The Bad

Nice guys never win, or have the option for their 2017-’18 contract picked up. Payne would have been on the last year of his rookie contract and would have been a relatively inexpensive option for the Wolves. Unfortunately, it appears that we will no longer have Adreian in our warm embrace. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and will most likely be more expensive to resign due to the Wolves declining his rookie contract.

Additionally, the Wolves acquired Payne from the Hawks in exchange for a future first round draft pick. Good news, it’s 1-14 protected in 2017 and we were not all that good this year. Bad news, it transitions to a 1-14 protected pick in either 2018, 2019, or 2020, and we’re hoping to make the playoff in the near future. If it’s still protected after the 2020 season, the Wolves will surrender a second round pick in 2020 and 2021. So, Adreian provided a total of 99 games played, 403 points, 302 rebounds, and 13 made three-pointers in his Timberwolves career in exchange for a (hopefully) 2018 first round pick. Well...crap. Maybe not the best exchange, even though he’s a nice guy.

I will remember Major Payne as a member of the Timberwolves for moments like this,

However, I will remember him as a person for moments like this:

Wishing you the best of luck in the future, Adreian, both in your career and your health. Your time with the Timberwolves has been a wild ride and we’re excited for your next stop (train reference - nailed it).

Payne Train, coming through...

Summer league, where Payne truly shines. H/t Dane Moore for the link: