The picture above features Cameron Payne playing for the Dallas Mavericks in this year’s NBA Summer League tournament in Las Vegas. Despite being there at almost 25, and having just spent a season with two of the worst teams in the league, Payne is reportedly signing with the Toronto Raptors for two years.
After a strong summer league, the former OKC Thunder lottery pick receives partial guarantees in first season and an opportunity to compete for reserve PG spot in Toronto. https://t.co/aLWL1NUkj5— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 17, 2019
As noted by Shams there, the contract is only partially guaranteed. It sounds like the Raptors are content to give Payne a chance in year one, and then make a decision the following season. (Though I suppose he could just be cut out of training camp; who knows?) This feels of a piece with how the Raptors are going about building their squad this year; it’s all one- and two-year deals to maintain flexibility while taking low-risk flyers are players looking to prove they belong.
And Payne will have to do some convincing. After being selected 14th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Payne has done little through his four years in and out of the league. At 6’3” and 190 pounds, the point guard has spent most of his time in the G League or healing from foot injuries that have robbed him of a lot of potential NBA court time. The only thing, sadly, that really comes to mind when recalling Cam on a big league bench is the dancing routines he used to pull off with his old teammate Russell Westbrook back in his rookie season.
For the 2018-19 season, Payne appeared in a total of 40 games — 31 for the Chicago Bulls and nine for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It perhaps says something about him that he was unable to find a foothold on two awful teams, squads just dying for someone to give some shape to the offense or defense. In that time he averaged 17.8 minutes per game in which he put up 6.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists, while shooting 43 percent from the field and 30 percent from three. Again, not particularly remarkable.
In the 2019 NBA Summer League, Payne looked much better. Through his three outings with the Mavericks, Cam averaged 29 minutes per game, putting up 20 points, five rebounds, and four assists per — and, sure, 2.7 steals to go with 51 percent shooting from the floor. Obviously there is some small sample size noise here, but apparently not enough to deter the Raptors and Masai Ujiri.
For those keeping track, this means the Raptors now have three point guards on the roster, with Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and Payne. They’ve also got Terence Davis, who could, at a long 6’4”, conceivably play the two-spot — and who also showed out in Vegas. If nothing else, we’ll get a chance to see just how good the Raptors’ player development team really is. Toronto won’t necessarily have to rely on Payne for the coming season, but if they can mould him back into a reliable NBA player, it will be difficult to ignore their ability.