The point guard spent part of the 2019-20 season in China and the G League before joining the Suns during the NBA restart amid the COVID-19 pandemic. His play in the bubble was enough to earn a regular role in 2020-21, and he took advantage with quality production throughout the year.
Payne finished last season with averages of 8.4 points and 3.6 assists per game, mostly off the bench in 60 appearances. He also hit 44 percent of three-point attempts to rank 10th in the NBA among qualified players.
The 26-year-old was a reliable backup for Chris Paul and a valuable contributor for a team that earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Payne continued his breakout in the playoffs during the Suns' run to the NBA Finals, especially turning heads when Paul missed two games because of the NBA's health and safety protocols. Payne started two games in the Western Conference Finals, totaling 29 points, nine assists, two steals and two blocks in a Game 2 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The production showed he can be a difference-maker with more opportunities, although he decided to remain in Phoenix and likely stay a key player off the bench.
The new contract will give the guard a big upgrade in salary while keeping him on a contender going forward. It also provides the Suns with some continuity in the rotation as they look to compete for a championship in 2021-22.