What Cameron Payne brings to the Phoenix Suns

Cameron Payne, Phoenix Suns (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)
Cameron Payne, Phoenix Suns (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns signed Cameron Payne for the remainder of the season and he will join the team in the Disney bubble. It is a low risk, high reward move.

The Phoenix Suns did it. After much speculation around will-they-won’t they, should-they-shouldn’t-they, the team signed Cameron Payne for the remainder of the season and will join the team in the Disney bubble.

They went after a backup point guard after all.

All things considered, this is better than I anticipated. Actually, I thought they would forego signing anyone altogether, but they could have done much worse than Cameron Payne.

The Phoenix Suns signed Cameron Payne to compete to be the backup point guard.

Payne was actually selected one pick (14) behind Devin Booker in the 2015 NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now the Phoenix Suns have four first-rounders from that draft: Kaminsky (9), Booker (13), Payne (14), Oubre (15).

That is just kind of ridiculous.

Suffice to say, Kaminsky, Booker, and Oubre have had slightly better NBA careers than Payne thus far. The Thunder traded Payne to the Chicago Bulls in a deal involving Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott. There, he enjoyed the best statistical season averages of his career putting up 8.8 points and 4.5 assists per game, but ultimately, the Bulls waived him the following season to make room for Aaron Brooks.

Despite his one year of marginally decent numbers, fans there seem to be very anti-Cameron Payne, with the Chicago Tribune calling his time with the Bulls “disastrous.” 

Part of the reason Payne may have struggled early on was injuries. Most notably, he fractured his foot when he was with the Thunder which required surgery, and that’s not something you just pop back up from.

After a brief stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, Payne didn’t get picked up in the offseason and has spent time in China and with the Texas Legends of the G-League.

There, he has dominated.

Payne averaged 23.2 points and 7.3 assists per game for Texas in just 15 games. Sure, it’s the G-League, but that kind of consistent performance is great for the confidence of a former lottery pick unable to find his footing in the league.

How is he going to fit into the Phoenix Suns rotation? My guess is Monty may install him as the backup point guard immediately. At least, he’ll have a chance to earn it.

This signing comes as a huge blow to Jevon Carter and Elie Okobo who have been fighting for this spot all season long, with Carter (temporarily) solidifying it before the hiatus. Ty Jerome has been in the mix too, but less so, and he has a little more leeway considering he is a rookie on a multi-year deal.

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Carter and Okobo, however, are fighting for a spot on next year’s roster. Carter will be a restricted free agent after this season and Okobo’s contract is not fully guaranteed. Both players were undoubtedly looking forward to copious amounts of playing time in Disney to prove their worth to James Jones.

Then again, it is no foregone conclusion Payne will instantly springboard ahead of them in the rotation. On paper, Payne is at the very least a modest improvement over both players, however, I could argue Carter is a better defensive player than the other two combined.

Payne is no slouch on the defensive end, though. He averaged over two steals per game this season in the G-League and regardless of the competition, that’s not too bad.

Ultimately, this signing culminates is an eight-game, three-person tryout for next season. It is as if the Joker broke a pool cue, threw the large jagged-edged side between Carter, Payne, and Okobo and said, “So, which one of you fine gentleman would like to join our team? Oh, there’s only now spot open, so we are going to have tryouts. Make it fast.”

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Regardless of who wins this backup point guard battle royal, the Phoenix Suns should still look to bring someone in either via free agency or the draft that would be an upgrade over all of these guys. That is much easier said than done, of course, but we can’t expect this to be the only point guard transaction the Suns make before the start of next season.

To go back to my previous cinematic anecdote, there is room for aggressive expansion. 

In the end, signing Cameron Payne is a low-risk, high-reward move. Payne is only 25 years old and averaged great numbers this season in the G-League. If he doesn’t make it, okay, but if he does, the Suns may get their quality backup point guard on the cheap.

Here. We. Go.

Next. For the Suns, the focus in Orlando is player development. dark