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For seniors like Payne, experience could be liability

POSTED: Jun 12, 2014 8:59 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Despite being 23, Michigan State's Adreian Payne feels he has plenty of learning and upside ahead of him.

He is very experienced, and that is a concern.

He is more mature than most peers, and that could be a problem.

A lot of what should be highlighted about power forward Adreian Payne heading to the draft has instead become something to overlook, a 23-year-old with four years at a power program like Michigan State who could touch the end of the lottery in the June 26 Draft if a team is able to overlook the part about being a 23-year-old with four years in any college program.

Prospect Profile: Adreian Payne

It's not really the part about leaving college as a senior, and certainly not about being as basketball worldly as anyone in the draft after four years of pressure situations with the Spartans. Quite the opposite. The issue is that Payne is older, and much older in some cases, than most of the rest of the Class of 2014.

Older means fewer seasons left in his career, one of many factors front offices will be weighing as they debate Payne against candidates who are 19 or 20 years old and, in theory, have the possibility of several more seasons left in a career. Older also means techniques have settled deeper and provide less opportunity for NBA coaching.

"I think it might hurt," one general manager said. "He's a made product. He is what he is. Everyone can always get better, but he does have a smaller window."

Said another GM, in a semi-counter: "The age factor might hurt. You want guys that have more upside. But teams looking at Adreian Payne in the later stages of the first round have better records and want to win more now."

Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski is 24 and will turn 25 just before camps open -- in the ultimate perspective, another Sun Devil product, James Harden, is all of 11 days older -- but Bachynski is a likely second-rounder. Any real production from someone taken that late is a gift. Payne projecting to the teens, though, makes the age factor an especially big deal for teams that need a return on that kind of investment.

"I haven't heard it," Payne said of the concerns. "But I started playing basketball at a late age. I started playing around eighth grade. I've really got so much to learn and I just want to learn as much as I can. Not knowing what the NBA is offering and how much goes on and how much work you have to put in, I'm just a sponge just trying to learn as much as I can."

Adreian Payne Highlights

Indeed, one of the selling points for Payne is that he is far from a finished product, despite the age. The way he expanded his game on offense as a Michigan State senior, adding range to become a legitimate stretch-four to go with the ability to score inside and athleticism, signals a player on an upward trajectory, not someone leveling off.

Additionally, the age can be a positive. If a team is in win-now mode rather than in a game of patience, as several teams are in the mid-teens, Payne fits. If they want maturity, a player tested by several years of big games, that's Payne too.

"I don't think it's going to hurt," he said. "Just being older, you get much more out of a player more NBA-ready and just able to handle more things on the court. I know how to handle adversity. In the NBA, it's a lot of adversity and if you don't know how to handle it well then bad things can happen."

Other draft notes:

• Marcus Smart keeps getting questions about the run-in with the fan at Texas Tech in February, and keeps handling them well.

"I put it behind me," the Oklahoma State point guard headed to the top 10 and maybe even the top five said with no trace of the frustration that might be overtaking others in the same situation. "I don't know if everybody else has."

While the incident received a lot of attention and earned Smart a three-game suspension, NBA teams are able to dismiss it as a bad moment and the farthest thing from a red flag. In fact, his reputation as a mature leader is one of the biggest positives on the resumè, along with his potential as a defender and a physical presence at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Front offices love his personality.

• Smart, by the way, has already visited the Magic twice, with Orlando picking fourth and looking at Smart and Dante Exum at the top of the list of point guards. It's a risk since neither have proven to be dependable distributors, Smart in college and Exum at anything beyond high school in Australia for extended stretches, but multiple visits are usually an indication.

"I guess that's a good sign," Smart said.

• The adidas Eurocamp fizzled to an end Monday with such a disappointing field that some executives stayed in the United States at the last moment when they saw the list of participants, others left Treviso, Italy, early rather than stick out all three days and others tried to get out but found the cost of the changing their ticket too prohibitive.

What could have been a very good group, with a strong international field heading to the draft, took a bad turn for camp organizers when the two top prospects from Europe, possible top-10 picks Dario Saric and Jusuf Nurkic, were still in the Croation League playoffs. In fact, their teams faced off in the championship series, with one of the games played at the same time, with Nurkic delivering an underwhelming showing.

• An unexpected, but believable, Kyle Anderson comparison from an executive: Andre Miller. Anderson is a small forward trying to sell himself as a full-time point guard and Miller had had a long and productive career at the point, but it's a fit in style and speed. Neither scares opponents with speed and neither plays with much of a wow factor, but both can deliver the ball, play under control and play smart. That's a nice compliment for Anderson, whose appeal as a first-round pick is based on his potential as a point forward.

• Eurocamp will be staying in Treviso. Organizers had looked at relocating to Paris, Munich or a couple cities in Spain as soon as next year before deciding to stay in the long-time home about 20 miles north of Venice.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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