(First posted RealGM)
Payton is one of the most impressive athletes in this draft and he looks terrific in occasions where he’s able to overwhelm the competition with his athleticism; in transition, attacking the basket with a head of steam, cutting to the rim off the weak-side, engaged defending in space and pursuing the ball off the glass. Payton shot 65% on 374 attempts at the rim and collected 19% of opponents’ misses over his two seasons at Oregon State. Those are two appealing pieces of data.
The problems regard Payton’s ability to perform in a structured environment. His decision making running offense in the half-court was questionable. He is a lousy jump-shooter as of now, both off the catch and off the dribble, which allows the opponent to consistently shell against his dribble penetration. As a result, Payton is often in a difficult position to create good looks for himself or others against a set defense.
He assisted on a third of Oregon State’s scores when he was on the floor last season but that piece of data is misleading. Watching him play, you realize not many of those assists happened with him drawing help and showcasing some special ability to pass on the move. Oregon State ran a motion offense with emphasis on getting the ball to people coming off side screens and many of Payton’s assists came on him simply passing the ball to these shooters out of a standstill position. The offense created those shots, not him.
He was not given much opportunity to run middle high pick-and-roll. Payton flashed the ability to make basic reads whenever he did have the chance to operate around a ball-screen but nothing particularly impressive.
Payton has the length, the strength and the lateral quickness to become an elite defender if the effort is present, and he can absolutely make magic happen in the open court. But he has too many gaps in his skill-set at this point of his development to be a credible presence in a half-court offense in the Era of three-point shooting, which is discouraging when you consider he’s already 23 years old.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara