Jan 17, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Oregon State Beavers guard Gary Payton II (1) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Utah Utes at Jon M. Huntsman Center. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
#3 Gary Payton Jr.
Gary Payton Jr. is no Gary Payton, but he’s a naturally skilled athlete with a high ceiling.
He’s more athletic than his father and can get up and finish above the rim despite his limited size. Payton measures in at 6’3″ with a 6’7″ wingspan and could eventually be a player who locks down both point guards and shooting guards.
Looking at his stats you might assume Payton was a 6’10” power forward instead of a nimble point guard. He averaged 18.6 points, 5.9 assists and an astonishing 9.2 rebounds per 40 minutes. He’s a better rebounder than most big men and has an impeccable knack for positioning himself to grab loose balls.
Payton projects to be an elite defender as well. He averaged 2.9 steals per game (and 3.4 last season) per 40 minutes due to his athleticism and commitment to capitalizing on his opponents mistakes. Steals and blocks tend to be a solid indicator of future defensive ability in young prospects, even if they lack the polish of a seasoned veteran.
The major challenge facing Payton is his shooting ability. He shot just 31% from deep this season (a 2% improvement over a year ago) and wasn’t any more reliable from mid-range. Defenders are going to go under all his screens which will hold back is already limited offensive potential.
The best comparison for Payton might be fellow draft prospect Kris Dunn. Payton could be a cheaper version of Dunn with roughly the same abilities. Their points and assist numbers are close, they both have a knack for rebounding, and they both project to be elite defenders but struggle with long-range shooting.
If they Pelicans choose to take a shooting guard like Buddy or Murray with the 6th pick they might want to look at Payton with one of their 2nd rounders. If all goes well, he could be 70% of what Dunn is for a far cheaper price.
Next: #2: You've got to be Qi-dding Me