Athletically, Payton is one of the top players in this draft and the best athlete focused who plays exclusively as a point guard position (I am excluding LaVine because he is a combo guard). The thing I like the most about Payton is his elite speed which usually translates to the NBA. Along with elite speed, at near 6’4, his rangy strides get him up the court faster than usual as well. Payton also possesses elite anticipation, quick hands, elite lateral quickness, and above average hops.
While skinny, at near 6’4, Payton possesses great height, length, and a solid wing-span for a point guards. He is also wiry strong and could probably add a little weight to his frame. While naturally a point guard, defensively, he can guard shooting guards on occasion.
Basketball IQ, Payton shows tremendous understanding of the game. Many times, he is able to see the play unfold even while playing at high speed. He set up teammates for six assists a game while averaging 19 points. Without a very good shot, Payton used plenty of smarts along with his speed to compile those stats. Defensively, Payton would guard players ranging from point guard to power forward and some of that has to be defensive intelligence.
While showing horrific outside shooting touch, Payton’s offensive skill relies on his craftiness and speed to get into the lane or finish mid-range shots. He can finish in the lane with up-and-under moves, body contortions, and floaters. If not scoring for self, he is able to create for others as evidenced by near six assists a game.
Payton also possesses a jet like quick first step and a good crossover. He also does a tremendous job getting out on fast break and creating for others.
Defensively, Payton could be one of the best point guard defenders in the league. He has big and quick hands, and at 6’4 and his size, athleticism, and skill allow him to smother other point guards and defend bigger players as well. With great anticipation skills, he averaged over 2 steals a game.
However, with great quickness and grit, Payton does a good job fighting and recovering through screens. With the versatility that he provides, he fought valiantly when guarding the much bigger and fellow NBA Prospect in Doug McDermott. While McDermott scored efficiently, Payton made him work for every point.
While Payton has tremendous assets in terms of athletic ability and some skills, he has some glaring concerns. As a point guard, he only shot 26% from three and 60% from the free throw line. Flat out, that is a huge concern and is the difference between him being a for sure superstar and just a very good defensive playmaker that can scorer if finding ways into the lane.
While Payton is very creative in getting to the rack, at times he struggled finishing the shots. Was finishing a by-product of being thinner? While a bad shooter, will his new form results in a better shot? If he can develop a moderate perimeter shot outside of the lane, he could be a star!
Overall, if Payton hits full-stride in talent, he could be one of the best players in this draft. Defensively, he already has the tools to being elite and has more height than Patrick Beverley. He also has a better understanding of the game at the point guard position than comparisons of Beverley and Teague.
The key for Payton will be if his new shooting stroke will lead to being at least adequate enough to opening up the rest of his game, or at least he can figure out how to get into the paint similarly to a Rajon Rondo or a Tony Parker.
It has been stated that he has been tearing up the workouts, did well in the Under 19 USA trials, and has done well when playing higher major type teams. I can see Payton moving up to mid-lottery in this draft with potential to be better than players picked above him (he will have to work hard to earn a good status).
While I think there is a tier that involves players above him in Dante Exum, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, and Andrew Wiggins, Payton has a chance to be in the next tier that could be a borderline star if he develops a jumper. The next tier are players that have potential to be really good and more than just a role player, but must develop a certain skill (Julius Randle – jumper, Noah Vonleh – an identity of a game, Aaron Gordon – knowing he is a power forward offensively and developing a jumper along with more muscle mass, and Marcus Smart – a perimeter jumper).
How does he fit with the Bulls?
The Bulls need shooters, playmakers, and any offense they can get. I really like some possibilities in this draft at near where we pick and we have Rose coming back (if there are no set-backs – I highly doubt he will be the same). Stating that, I feel we need playmakers and this kid has a chance to be an elite talent.
He has elite defensive potential, great speed, height that makes a difference at the point guard position, a good understanding of the game, and I feel would at least provide numerous opportunities to step in for Rose in the long run if he goes down for the long run or black alongside Rose if we get other shooters at the Stretch 4 and Small Forward.
I just feel this kid is worth trading up for if we can get him in the range of pick 9, 10, or so on. I’ve missed on pick Ekpe Udoh, but have guessed correctly on Paul George and Gorgui Dieng. I just feel this kid is a smart player that has elite athletic ability at his position. If he does not develop a jumper, than other players such as Stauskas and Harris would be better fits for our team! However, I am willing to take that risk on a talent such as Payton.