Phoenix Suns’ Cameron Payne is the perfect sixth man

Phoenix Suns, Cameron Payne (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Cameron Payne (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns have a perfect sixth man in guard Cameron Payne. It can be overlooked the importance of a sixth man for the Suns especially when starting point guard Chris Paul is playing at an MVP level.

Paul commands the team, adds assists, and scores in timely moments.

The Phoenix Suns’ Cameron Payne doesn’t have the skill set to replicate those elements, but that’s what makes him the perfect complement.

After almost losing hope of another chance to play in the NBA, head coach Monty Williams called Payne about playing for the Suns during the end of the 2019-2020 season. Down in Orlando for the bubble, Payne got his opportunity with Phoenix and hasn’t looked back.

This season he’s averaged 8.4 points with 48.4% from the field and 44.0% from three in 18 minutes. Payne has provided a spark of energy and liveliness to the Suns since his first game with the team.

With Paul’s lingering shoulder injury the Suns have adapted a ‘next man up mentality in the playoffs. It’s not easy stepping into a bigger role with the defending champion Lakers on the other end but Payne has played fearlessly.

Increasing his minutes to 26 each game, naturally, his other stats saw increases as well with 13 points and more rebounds and assists. His field goal percentages have decreased but that can be attributed to more minutes and field goal attempts.

Opposite Paul, Payne is young, quick and full of energy. Additionally, his primary objective when he’s on the court is to score. His swift drives to the basket are a nice change of pace in today’s game of shooting threes.

Not to say he can’t hit 3s, but he doesn’t force them. Most of his points come from layups but those buckets often aren’t easy. Payne is very skilled in contorting his frame and getting into his opponent’s body before scoring.

His style of play is different from Paul’s silky shooting and playmaking ability and his uniqueness gives the Suns another dimension on offense.

Getting to the rim and getting a few easy baskets can do more than put points on the scoreboard. Just seeing a few buckets go down can instill confidence into a team whose shots aren’t dropping. For any young team, confidence is key and for the Suns, it’s one of their greatest strengths.

Phoenix Suns’ Cameron Payne: He’s important on defense, too.

On defense, Payne is a menace. In Orlando, he showed off his commitment to defense by picking up opponents at full court on nearly every possession. The Suns ranked seventh in defensive efficiency according to Team Rankings and Payne contributed to that with his work rate on the defensive end. Paul has 9 NBA All-Defensive team selections but when Payne checks in Phoenix can still be confident in the defensive efforts on the court.

A former member of the Western Conference finalist Thunder back in 2016, Payne has some deep playoff experience. Despite having a minor role, he still has more playoff experience than some of Phoenix’s best players. Bringing those lessons into Phoenix makes him a valued member whether he starts or comes off the bench.

Payne’s deployment as a sixth man is spot-on as he gives the Suns a burst of life whenever he enters the court. Whenever the Suns need a few quick points, Payne is the player they turn to. Much like the rest of the team, he always gives his best work ethic.

His hungry and energetic nature fits in perfectly with the culture of the young and ascending Phoenix Suns team. It’s not hard to imagine Payne finishing his career without one or two NBA Sixth Man of the Year awards.

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