Following a senior season that saw his Michigan State Spartans capture a Big Ten title and advance to the Elite Eight, forward Adreian Payne is a lock to be selected in the first round of Thursday’s NBA draft.
Averages of 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds exemplified his versatility in several aspects of the game, and his mark of 42.3 percent shooting from three-point range represented a new career high in 2013-14.
At 6’10’’ and 239 pounds, he has a skill set of a new-wave NBA power forward, one who’s capable of stretching the floor and playing down on the blocks or above the rim, when necessary.
When I had a chance to speak with him, we discussed how his game will translate to the NBA, what he learned during his time at Michigan State and how positional versatility impacts incoming prospects, among other topics.
What follows is a Q&A with Payne, who spoke to Bleacher Report from the BlackBerry Suite in New York City.
Bleacher Report: Your offensive game is among the most polished in the draft. But is there anything teams have asked you to work on over the past few months?
Adreian Payne: They tell me to work on everything. They just tell me to work on everything. Really never tell me nothing specific, just tell me to work on everything because I do pretty much everything—dribble, shoot, post- up, so they tell me to work on everything and work on my conditioning.
B/R: You proved throughout your college career that you were capable of stretching the floor. Since NBA teams value positional versatility, do you think your ability to pull opposing bigs away from the basket will help your cause at the next level?
AP: Yeah, for sure. I think every team is looking for that, and that’s what the NBA is going to, trying to have a stretch 4. And if you can have a guy who can score inside-out and stretch the floor then you can get two-in-one. Instead of just getting one, you can get two.
B/R: A lot of times when we’re talking about draft prospects, seniors are typically viewed as having lower upside because they spent so many of their key developmental years at school. As someone who spent four years in college, how would you refute that point?
AP: Yeah, I think it can affect some people. Some players it can help get better. And it can affect them. You just stay the same, you know?
I’ve proved to everybody that I was getting better every year and that I wanted to graduate. That was a big deal to me and my family, so it just really matters what you want to do in life and what matters to you. And graduating mattered to me, and I just stuck to it and made sure I graduated and continued to work on my game and get better.
B/R: So draft day is just two days away now. Do you have an idea what range you may be drafted in come Thursday night?
AP: I’m hearing anywhere from 10 [Philadelphia 76ers] to 20 [Toronto Raptors], maybe.
B/R: Are there any teams within that range that you think would be a good fit for your skill set?
AP: I would think any team that drafts me.
B/R: How do you think playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State helped prepare you for the pros?
AP: He really helped prepare me a lot on the court and off the court. You know, on the court you see how I got better every year, and then off the court he made me a better person. Just being able to interact with people and just really my social skills and just being who I am. It helped me a lot.
B/R: Have you spoken to any former Michigan State players about their pro experiences? What sort of advice have they had to offer?
AP: I talked to Jason Richardson and Draymond [Green]. Those are really the main guys I really talked to. They always tell me to make sure I save my money and make sure I stay in the gym and just stay to who I am.
B/R: Would you enjoy the chance to play with Draymond in Golden State or Jason in Philadelphia?
AP: I don’t have any idea with all the trades that can happen and how many picks everybody has. This year, everything’s up in the air. I know pretty much everybody is nervous about where they’re going because they don’t know what’s going to happen. Our agents are even nervous because they don’t know what’s going to happen.
B/R: Have you talked to [former Michigan State teammate] Gary Harris? Do you two have a bet on who will be selected first?
AP: No, Gary and I talk all the time, but we never really talked about who’s going to go first. We talked about workouts. It would be great if we could go right next to each other or land at the same team. I’m just happy for him that he got the opportunity to get drafted, and I’m pretty sure that he’s the same for me.