When I think of Cameron Payne, the first word that comes to mind is adversity. In that regard, there is optimism about what he has to offer the Phoenix Suns ahead of the 2022-23 season.
A three-star recruit out of high school and not considered a top-100 prospect, Payne found himself playing secondary basketball at Murray State. Zai Jackson’s injury will push him into the starting lineup, where he will average 16 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds as a freshman. He was followed by a more impressive 20.2 points, 6 assists and 3.7 rebounds as a sophomore. Things seemed to be reversed, and suddenly the once-overlooked guard was considered a fringe No. 1 pick, or even a possible lottery pick.
In 2015, after what most would consider a successful college career, he declared for the NBA draft. It’s a smart move in a class not recognized for its point guard depth. Just a year away from the James Harden trade and lacking a true point guard other than Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma State selected Payne with the 14th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
It seemed like a perfect fit; playing near his hometown and playing alongside Westbrook and Kevin Durant. In his rookie season with the Thunder, he averaged 5 points, 1.9 assists and 1.5 rebounds in just over 12 minutes per game.
With most teams looking to significantly raise their salary caps in the offseason, free agency is the biggest focus. Teams are handing out top contracts like monopoly money. In the offseason, he’ll quietly undergo a surgery on his right foot and be cleared for full contact before heading into training camp.