The Phoenix Suns’ newest player, Cameron Payne, made a solid debut, albeit a scrimmage game, and showed he’s ready to compete for a rotation spot.
Welcome to the Phoenix Suns, Cameron Payne. Yes, it was only one game. Yes, it was only a scrimmage. Yes, it was primarily against the Utah Jazz’ reserves. But the 2015 lottery pick looked solid in his Suns debut, putting up 11 points, five rebounds, two assists, and a steal.
Going into this scrimmage game, I was certain the battle for backup point guard would be between Payne and the Bulldog, Jevon Carter, but with Ricky Rubio sitting out due to his late arrival to the Disney bubble, it was the dark horse, Ty Jerome, who got the starting nod.
I was way off.
Cameron Payne made a strong claim to be the Phoenix Suns backup point guard.
Jerome looked like the Jerome we remembered from before the hiatus. At the time, I actually had a post in draft mode stating something to the effect of “Jerome might be best served to gain some confidence in the G-League.” Of course, COVID-19 deposited that idea directly in the virtual trash can, but after one scrimmage game, the sentiment remains the same.
Against the Jazz, he scored eight points, but only on 3-9 shooting that included 0-5 from 3-point range. He did chip in three assists, one rebound, and a steal, but throughout the game, he looked a step behind. He kept getting blown by whomever he was guarding on defense and was frustratingly-hesitant to shoot when open on offense.
Jerome must be one of those practice warriors who excel behind closed doors but hasn’t carried that success and confidence over to the games. In Monty I trust, but I have yet to see what he sees in the rookie.
Whatever the opposite of practice warrior is, that is Jevon Carter, who must be wondering what he has to do to get ahead. The Bulldog had the backup point guard spot locked up before the hiatus, and now he finds himself on the outside looking in once again.
Carter had another very Carter-like game with 10 points, three rebounds, one assist, and one block. He played solid defense and made open jumpers. That’s his game, and he played it. I’m not sure how guys keep jumping ahead of him in the rotation.
Then there was Cameron Payne, who after showing some opening minute jitters by fouling a 3-point shooter immediately after checking in and launching his own 3 at the buzzer that never had a chance, settled down and played under-control yet aggressive basketball.
You can tell he came from the G-League because there was a little more isolation basketball than we are used to seeing in Monty Williams’ system, but it proved successful. He knocked down his next 3 and made several strong drives to the rim, going 5-7 on the night.
After the game, Williams complemented both Jerome and Payne and said, “I want it to be a tough decision [for backup point guard].”
I’m definitely no professional coach, but after one game, it really isn’t a tough decision. Of course, one game a competition does not make, and Monty will have two more scrimmages to evaluate his point guard options.
That being said, it is officially election season, and Cam Payne is running a strong campaign for the office of backup point guard.