Gary Payton II, Senior, PG/SG, Oregon State 8 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal, 5 fouls, 4-6 2P, 23.3 minutes
Payton didn't exactly steal the show in Thursday's 5-on-5 session, but he stayed in his lane offensively, used his athleticism in transition, did a nice job of staying in front of Cat Barber on defense, and made a couple of impressive passes while on the move in the half court. Payton isn't the most natural point guard, often looking to give the ball up rather than probing and facilitating offense. He found some success, however, in quick actions to the rim, displaying impressive vision and accuracy on a drive and kick in traffic while also showing excellent touch and instincts on a lob pass. Payton's highlight of the day came when he barreled down the lane unguarded and hammered home a tomahawk dunk off of two feet. The 23-year-old Seattle native still has his struggles as a scorer in the half court, mostly due to his shooting stroke. Payton missed a wide open pull up jumper from the elbow and turned down an open three from the wing a few possessions later. He's not quite a vocal floor general or big-time shot creator, but with Payton's defense, passing instincts, physical tools (6' 3 with a 6' 8 wingspan) and athleticism he was able to find some success playing off the ball next to Kay Felder, and remains an intriguing second-round prospect.
Scouting Report by Matt Williams. Video Analysis by Mike Schmitz
Toiling in relative obscurity just two years ago averaging 14.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore at Salt Lake Community College (UT), Gary Payton II burst onto the NBA radar with an impressive junior season that saw him earn Defensive Player of the Year and All-Conference First Team recognition in the Pac-12, posting a surprisingly similar stat-line despite the significant jump in competition. Returning to Corvalis for his senior season, the Seattle native figured to establish himself among the top point guard prospects in the senior class in his second season under Wayne Tinkle. Ranking among the top-10 players in the Pac-12 in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per-game, the 23 year old guard largely lived up to expectations, guiding the Beavers to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1990, repeating as the conference Defensive Player of the Year, and solidifying himself as a potential late first round pick.
A somewhat unique guard prospect, Payton's intrigue at the NBA level starts his impressive physical tools. Playing even bigger than his measurements of 6'2.5 in shoes with a 6'6.5 wingspan and a 184-pound frame at the 2015 Nike Skills Academy, the Westwing Prep (AZ) product has terrific size and length for a lead guard. Payton also possesses very good quickness and explosive leaping ability, being responsible for a number of highlight reel dunks during his two seasons in Division I. He has everything you look for in a point guard prospect from a physical standpoint.
There is some real substance to how Payton applies his physical tools on the floor, particularly on the boards and the defensive end. Pulling down an absolutely spectacular 9.3 rebounds per-40 minutes as a senior, Payton ranks among the top rebounding point guards of all-time at the high major level on paper, especially on the offensive end. He does an impressive job pursuing caroms on both ends, frequently pulling down contested rebounds sneaking up on players with better position thanks to how quickly he elevates to corral the ball and his instincts tracking the ball and boxing out bigger players when the situation calls for it.
Defensively, Payton was very disruptive at times this season, ranking 2nd in steals per-40 minutes pace adjusted among players in our top-100, behind only Kris Dunn. Active with his hands, aggressive in the passing lanes when Oregon State went zone, and capable of applying great pressure defending on the ball, Payton has some impressive moments on this end, especially when he's being aggressive.
With that being said, the Westwind Prep (AZ) product still has room to grow as a defender, as he struggled with some occasional lapses in effort and doesn't always fight through screens effectively. He gives up more dribble penetration that one would hope defending on the ball as he appears more committed on this end some times more than others. Payton's ability to make strides in those areas and reach his lofty potential defensively are more important than they are for many point guards looking to make the jump to the NBA, as his offensive game is less refined than many of his peers.
Playing on the ball more frequently than he did a year ago, Payton was tasked as the primary ball handler for a far different Beavers team as a senior, as Wayne Tinkle welcomed a deep, talented freshman class into the fold. Playing at a much quicker pace and taking a massive step forward after struggling to score for stretches last season, Oregon State was one of the most improved offensive teams in the country, and some of the credit for that goes to Payton. Operating far more frequently in the pick and roll and assuming bigger responsibilities as a scorer and passer, the senior adjusted nicely to the changes Tinkle implemented this season, posting an improved 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio with similar scoring efficiency, even if his strengths and weaknesses remain largely unchanged.
At this point, Payton does his best work in transition, using his speed to spark the break and his explosiveness to score in the open floor. An effortless leaper, Payton is a threat to finish spectacularly above the rim, and his aggressiveness looking for steals often leads to easy opportunities on the other end.
In the half court, the senior was solid on some fronts, but not others this season. With 50% of his shots coming from finishing opportunities and floaters according to the Synergy Sports Technology, Payton is very aggressive looking to get into the paint to score. He also does a nice job working without the ball crashing the glass, setting up cuts, and converting lobs. Shooting an impressive 65% in finishing situations, but just 27% on floaters, Payton struggles to convert from the midrange, but finishes fairly effectively when he gets all the way to the rim, which he did at a nice rate thanks to his strong first step. He forces the issue at times and doesn't always finish effectively over length, but his combination of speed an leaping ability translates nicely against a set defense.
As a passer, Payton has good vision and does a better job making the simple play than he did a year ago, dishing out 5.9 assists per-40 minutes pace adjusted to rank right around average among point guard prospects in our top-100. He's not an overly prolific distributor, however, as his feel for running a team serving as a full-time playmaker leaves a bit to be desired at times. He'll make some impressive plays in drive and kick situations, but kills his dribble too soon just too frequently, and doesn't have a great grasp of when to take his foot off the gas attacking off the bounce. He isn't very turnover prone, but seems capable of more as a shot creator given his athletic prowess. An improved, but still less than dynamic ball handler, Payton was able to make plays on speed alone at the college level, and though his ability to get downhill quickly figures to be a key part of his game at the next level, he would benefit from becoming more shifty with the ball in his hands, improving his right hand, and growing into a more reliable shooter to reach his potential as a slasher.
The biggest concern about Payton at this stage is his lack of jump shooting ability and at times questionable shot selection. Making 31% of his jump shots in the half court, Payton is a suspect set shooter and even more streaky off the dribble. He's also prone to settling for shots early in the shot clock, a bit concerning given his ineffectiveness from the outside. His mechanics don't look awful at times, but the consistency of his release and its fluidity aren't ideal. To his credit, he was more aggressive attacking the basket this season than last, forcing drives more frequently than pull-ups. The way defenders sagged off of his at times makes his success getting inside as regularly as he did that much more impressive. Despite that, his ability to keep defenders honest with the threat of his perimeter shot is a significant point of interest moving forward as he makes the jump to the next level.
The main attraction here is Oregon State's point guard Gary Payton II, and his ability to handle a very tough and competitive VCU defense. The Rams don't press as much as they did under Shaka Smart, relying more on their staunch half-court defense to get the job done, but continue to generate a lot of turnovers. Payton's ability to run Oregon State's offense, both creating looks for himself and his teammates, will be paramount for his team to win this game. He's one of the most physically impressive players in college basketball with his strong size, ripped frame and explosive athleticism, even if his lack of a consistent 3-point shot, and at times average decision making, will be something VCU looks to exploit. Payton is a tremendous defender, and there's a good chance he'll see some time guarding VCU's prolific perimeter shooting guard Melvin Johnson, who has range out to the NBA 3-point line.
From an NBA scouting perspective, one of the most intriguing games Oregon State has played thus far was against (then #2 ranked) Kansas on December 12th at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Payton put both his strengths and weaknesses on full display there, scoring 13 points (5/10 2P, 0/1 3P) to go along with 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 turnovers in 36 minutes.
Via Mike Schmitz, here's a six minute video breakdown of some of the more notable things NBA scouts were able to see from Payton in that game, both good and bad, on either end of the floor.
An extremely unique prospect, both in terms of style of play and his off-court background, Gary Payton came out of nowhere to emerge as a first-team All-Pac 12 player last season.
The son of NBA hall of famer Gary Payton, who also attended Oregon State, Gary II was recruited by the previous coaching staff led by Craig Robinson, but elected to stay committed to the Beavers when Wayne Tinkle took over. He took a circuitous route to Corvallis, being forced to go the JUCO route when he couldn't get academically eligible for Division I coming out of high school, leading him to Westwind Prep and then eventually Salt Lake Community College.
Payton has a tremendous physical profile for a point guard, standing 6-3, with an extremely long wingspan, a strong frame, big hands, and terrific athletic ability. He ranked #1 among all point guard prospects in rebounds and blocks on a per-40 minute basis, as well as #2 overall in steals. Only a dozen players in the last 15+ years have posted those type of numbers in the college ranks according to our extensive historical database, including the likes of Andre Iguodala, Dwayne Wade, Grant Hill, Clyde Drexler, Bonzi Wells and Ron Harper.
Payton's calling card as a NBA prospect indeed revolves around his defensive prowess. His size and length allows him to defend any of the three backcourt positions at the college level, giving his coach tremendous flexibility in terms of lineups and strategies defending the pick and roll, pressing, and playing man or zone. His instincts in the passing lanes and as a rebounder help get his team countless extra possessions every game.
He contests shots impressively on the perimeter, being able to sag off his man and give himself an extra cushion to not get neat off the dribble, but still get a hand up on jumpers with his tremendous length. He does a great job of staying in front for that reason, even if his fundamentals can still improve on this end of the floor.
He played a huge part in Oregon State's emergence as one of the best defensive teams in college basketball last season, finishing 16th overall in that category according to KenPom, up from 215th the season before, and won Pac-12 defensive player of the year honors for his efforts.
Offensively, Payton II is much more of a mixed bag, looking far rawer than your average 22-year old NBA prospect, which is likely due in part to his unique background. He played both on and off the ball last year, showing average ball-handling skills and a streaky jumper, and alternating between being too passive to making some very questionable decisions in the half-court.
Payton does not have a great feel for the game at this stage, and has a lot of work to do before he can be trusted to run a NBA team, particularly in the half-court. His ball-handling skills are rudimentary, particularly with his weaker right hand, as he does not have a great deal of shake to him and struggles when forced to change speeds or directions, often picking up his dribble unnecessarily. That hampers him from utilizing his athleticism as much as you'd hope, and forces him to be much more of a jump-shooter than his skill-set suggests he should.
Payton's shooting mechanics are not terrible, particularly from the waist up, and he would surprise you at times with his ability to knock down consecutive jumpers at times last season, showing some potential to continue to improve in this area down the road. With that said, he's far from being a consistent threat, and indeed only hit 27 of his 92 attempts from beyond the arc (29%) to go along with 66% of his free throw attempts. He needs to continue to polish his footwork and balance, as he doesn't always look to be in rhythm, and tends to shoot the ball on the way down.
Shot-selection is a major issue as well, as it's not rare to see him bring the ball up the court and then settle for an off-balance pull-up jumper early in the offense without any rhyme or reason seemingly. He'll either have to improve his court vision and playmaking ability significantly or become a far more consistent outside shooter to carve out a significant role at the NBA level, as it's difficult to be both a non-shooter and a combo guard at the same time in today's style of play.
With that said, Payton did show some flashes last year that indicate he could continue to progress with added coaching and experience, at times impressing with some nice passes, or making a strong take to the rim and finishing nicely in the paint. Considering it was just his first season of playing against Division I competition, it will be interesting to see how he progresses as a senior.
Payton's physical profile, defense and intensity will always put him in the mix as a NBA caliber player, but he'll have to continue to polish his skill-set to show he can carve out a role in a team's rotation. He's in a great spot to show how he's progressed this summer, as the leader of a fairly experienced Oregon State team that will be vying for a NCAA Tournament berth, which would be their first in 26 years.
Payton II more or less excelled playing the same role that he thrived in last year at Oregon State play lockdown defense, finish above the rim in transition and get to the bucket in a straight line and finish. Payton II made one or two athletic plays a day that made you wonder how good he could be if his skills ever develop down the road.
For the time being, however, Payton II is not a great shot creator, jump shooter or distributor. His feel for the game was a bit behind the other point guard prospects as his natural ability to read the floor and make quick decisions on the move is a couple of notches below that of an NBA-caliber point guard. Payton II continuously drove baseline with nowhere to go and would be forced to throw a desperation jump pass to try and save the possession. Payton II also still has to fine-tune his jump shot both off the catch and the dribble. He displays loose and somewhat unnatural mechanics that, if improved, could really help elevate his offensive game.
On the flip side, Payton II was one of the best on ball defenders at the camp, applying relentless ball pressure, containing penetration with his quickness and strength, and making plays in the passing lanes with his length and anticipation. Payton II is still a bit raw as a point guard and shooter, but based on his physical tools, explosiveness and defensive prowess he could very well get drafted and look to continue to develop as a pro.