2015 NBA Draft: Delon Wright and Cameron Payne

Other than center, PG is the strongest position in the 2015 draft. I have already looked at D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, the top 2 PGs in this draft. This is a look at a couple who are on the next level, Delon Wright of Utah and Cameron Payne of Murray State.

Delon Wright, Utah: Wright was a mystery when he came to Utah as a transfer from the City College of San Francisco. He was named the Coast Conference Player of the Year and led his team, the Rams, in blocks, steals and assists while averaging around 10 points per game. The last bit is from his Utah bio page. I have no stats other from his 2 seasons at CCSF.

Wright immediately became the Utes best player, piling up great stats both offensively and defensively. The team improved dramatically with Wright as the star, going from a losing record the year before he arrived to the NCAA tournament his 2nd season there. Last year he was one of my favorite prospects and that continued this year as his great stats continued to pile up.

The 2 big numbers he hit were a high 2-point percentage and RSB40. Here is Wright’s two seasons with those of other major college PGs who topped .540 2PP and 9.0 RSB40 as Wright did both seasons:

Point Guard Prospects 2PP 3PP P40 A40 S40 RSB40 A/TO
Gary Payton 569 333 27.3 8.6 3.7 9.1 2.2
Jason Kidd 545 362 19.0 10.3 3.6 11.8 2.1
Allen Iverson 546 366 30.5 5.7 4.1 9.3 1.2
Andre Miller 553 265 19.1 6.8 3.1 10.2 2.0
Penny Hardaway 583 332 24.4 6.8 2.5 13.0 1.9
Rajon Rondo 540 273 14.4 6.3 2.6 10.7 2.1
Steve Francis 580 388 22.2 5.8 3.6 9.8 1.5
Gary Grant 544 485 26.3 6.3 3.2 9.4 1.7
Delon Wright (Junior) 633 222 17.3 5.9 2.8 11.7 2.1
Delon Wright (Senior) 554 356 18.4 6.4 2.6 10.1 2.6

This is quite a group. All except Miller and Grant were all-stars, most of them multiple times. Miller played almost 40,000 minutes in a long career that any player entering the NBA would be happy to experience. Wright didn’t score as frequently as some of the greats on the list, but Kidd, Miller and Rondo weren’t high volume scorers in college either. That doesn’t seem to keep a player with a high 2PP and RSB40 from greatness. His steals weren’t as high as some, but Delon Wright was a better shot blocker in college than any player listed here. I feel his defense will be fine.

Another thing about this list is it is mostly comprised of players drafted in the last millennium. Rondo is the only exception. I’m not sure if that makes Wright a unique prospect in modern times, or something of a throwback who will struggle in the newer, smaller NBA. Time will tell on that. My feeling is that great, dominant numbers are always a good thing and shouldn’t be held against Wright.

Even though his numbers put him in elite company there are some questions about Delon Wright. He’s a 23 year-old 5th-year senior and that has always been a negative for a draftee. He’s 4 years older than some of the other prospects, meaning he doesn’t have the same upside. He also plays passively on offense. The times I’ve watched him I have never seen him try to take over a game.

I don’t see either issue as a huge problem. He is older, but he has posted great numbers for 2 seasons now. The 5th-year seniors to worry about are the ones who only put themselves on the prospect map in that 5th year.  Delon Wright was just as good as a junior and what little evidence we have suggests he was very good in junior college. The positive spin on being 23 is he’ll be more NBA-ready and could help a team immediately. As for his on-court passivity, it could actually be an asset in the NBA. At Utah Wright was the best player on the team and expected to be the one to take over. In the NBA he’ll be more of a distributor and defender, roles he is clearly comfortable in and should excel at. His high 2PPs show he’ll be able to score when needed.

Another concern is this:

Delon Wright 2PP 3PP P40 A40 S40 RSB40 A/TO
Junior 633 222 17.3 5.9 2.8 11.7 2.1
Nov-Dec 652 333 20.6 7.0 3.0 10.7 3.1
January 545 256 16.7 8.6 2.8 8.1 3.5
February 473 368 17.3 4.8 1.8 10.3 1.6
March 469 500 17.5 4.9 2.3 10.3 1.9

His efficiency fell off the cliff over the last couple of months. Every player has cold and hot spells and the overall efficiency of Delon Wright has been stellar for 2 seasons. The fact that he ended his career on a cold streak is a mild concern though. Other things to note in the final 2 months: he did attempt more FGs, he got to the line more frequently and he shot the 3-pointer better but not more frequently.  Perhaps he was trying to do more and his numbers were hurt by it. He also had some soreness in his knee that had his status questionable for some games in early February and that could have been a factor in the slump. Whatever the reason the slump is the only negative on a great resume.

An interesting aside on Wright is that his brother is Dorell Wright, a player he couldn’t be more different from. Dorell entered the NBA straight out of high school. Delon is coming in as a 5th-year senior. The skill that has kept Dorell in the league is his 3-point prowess. The skill that’s keeping Delon from being ranked higher is the lack of a 3-point shot. Not important, but I thought it was interesting enough to mention.

The bottom line on Delon Wright is that his numbers are too good to ignore for too long on draft night. He’s in historically great company as a prospect. I feel Delon Wright will become a good to excellent pro. His ceiling is an NBA all-star. He has the potential to be an all-league defender. He’s a solid passer. As a scorer he’ll never be one to light it up, but he’s steady enough that he won’t hurt a team and his efficiency will be an asset. There are definitely some concerns about him, but the positives and overall potential outweigh them by a long shot. If the mocks are right and Delon Wright is drafted  near the end of round one, he’ll be the steal of the 2015 draft.

Cameron Payne, Murray State: Small college guards are trending right now. Steph Curry is the MVP. Damian Lillard is an all-star. Linsanity happened. This year the hot small college guard is Cameron Payne of Murray State. He has moved into the lottery in most mocks after entering the draft following his sophomore season.

Here are some PGs who were drafted into the NBA out of small colleges in recent years and their draft year stats compared with Payne.

Small College Guards 2PP 3PP P40 A40 S40 RSB40 A/TO
Stephen Curry 519 387 33.0 6.4 2.9 8.3 1.5
Damian Lillard 519 409 28.4 4.6 1.7 7.8 1.7
George Hill 580 450 23.3 4.7 1.9 9.7 1.5
Jeremy Lin 598 341 20.2 5.5 3.0 9.7 1.4
Elfrid Payton 541 259 20.1 6.2 2.4 9.3 1.6
CJ McCollum 496 532 32.0 3.7 1.9 8.9 1.1
Ray McCallum 562 323 19.8 4.7 2.1 8.1 2.2
Lester Hudson 544 388 27.8 4.9 3.1 12.3 1.2
Cameron Payne 513 377 24.1 7.1 2.3 7.3 2.4

Payne is the least experienced player on the list. This gives him a tad more upside than the rest. Curry and Payton entered the draft as juniors. Lillard and Hill were 4th-year juniors. So how does Cameron Payne stack up? On offense he looks fine. The efficiency numbers of .513 and .377 are solid. They’re up from .456 and .341 his freshman year. He’s the best passer of the group, topping the list in both A40 and A/TO. His defensive numbers are good enough. His 2.4 S40 is solid. The RSB40 is low for this list, but is enough above the 6.5 benchmark for PGs that it isn’t a concern. I would feel better about Payne if the RSB40 were over 8.0 and preferably higher, but it isn’t so low that it would be a red flag.

My biggest concern with Payne is his efficiency has been up and down during his 2 seasons:

Cameron Payne 2PP 3PP P40 A40 S40 RSB40 A/TO
Freshman 456 341 20.6 6.7 2.1 7.2 1.7
Nov-Jan 565 365 23.2 7.4 3.1 7.4 2.1
Feb-March 467 387 25.0 7.1 1.9 7.3 2.4

As a freshman and for the final 2 months of his sophomore season, Payne’s 2-point percentage was at a level that would make him a risky prospect. On the flip side is he played 555 minutes over 3 months shooting a scorching .565 from inside the arc, so the ability is there. Because he’s young, it’s best to assume he’ll get the consistency figured out. His other numbers didn’t suffer when his efficiency slipped, which is also a good sign. He upped his P40, his RSB40 remained consistent, he shot better from behind the arc and his turnovers declined.

My only caution with Payne would be going too overboard on him as a potential NBA star. He’s been rising in the mocks even getting some top 10 buzz. This is probably too high considering the problems with efficiency he has had and the fact that his overall numbers are good as opposed to great for a prospect. Cameron Payne should become a solid NBA PG. His numbers are strong enough and he has shown good improvement during his 2 college seasons. I would put his ceiling as a notch or two below all-star, but a player who eventually will start at PG and have a long, successful NBA career.


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