Payne Brings Athleticism, Physical Presence To Hawks

Adreian Payne is a monster. Offensively he's aggressive, and defensively he is very active. He gets to the hole, goes up strong for rebounds and is an impressive shot-blocker. Hawks fans are going to love him.
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Hawks first round pick Adreian Payne, who just officially signed with the team, showed plenty of promise during his week of play at Las Vegas Summer League and will look to play his way into the rotation during training camp.

Payne comes into the NBA with a pretty well-polished skill set on both ends of the floor. On offense, he is explosive at the rim and has the shooting touch to spread the floor from the power forward position. The biggest hurdle for him on the offensive end will be adjusting to the speed of the game. He is plenty athletic and quick but had a tendency to rush himself in Summer League, particularly shooting the ball.

“I feel like I played pretty decent,” Payne said of his Summer League performance. “Feel like I played pretty consistent throughout the tournament, so I just gotta continue to get better and get more efficient with my shots. They were telling me to get my shots, try to slow myself down and get my shots when they come, and they were coming, they just weren't falling...Being able to shoot the ball translates to any level, but it’s a lot different with the speed of the game and the players are more athletic. So, I’m just trying to get more comfortable out there and trying to find the pace of the game, so the shots still come and I’m in rhythm.”

For the coaching staff, they’re happy to have a player who plays with the intensity and effort Payne does, and they’ll be working with him throughout the preseason on being under control and changing pace.

“You always love the fact that you have to tell a guy to slow down rather than pick it up,” assistant coach Darvin Ham said. “He just needs to learn how to be quick but not in a hurry. He gets going and he’s going full speed, and that’s normal for guys coming out of college. They want to do everything 1000 percent and 100 miles per hour, but you can’t blame him for that, and we’re just going to try and refine him a little bit and play with a change of pace.”

At the beginning of Summer League, Payne said he was struggling a bit with finding his space in the offense, and when and where he was supposed to get his shot. By the end of the week, he felt he had a better idea of his role and where he was supposed to be.

“I’m much more comfortable [with the system than when I started]. I’m just trying to get more comfortable out there -- more comfortable with my teammates and what they do and how I play with them.”

With his size and athleticism, Payne can be very impactful on the defensive end. Where he is still learning his role on offense, he is much more comfortable with the role he will play on the defensive end as a rim protector.

“Coach wants us to play defense, rebound, and run the floor. He wants me to block shots and at [Michigan] State I wasn’t able to block shots, but here I am...[Coach Izzo] didn’t want me to get into foul trouble, but the rules are different here than in college. Here you have verticality, so it’s a lot different.”

Payne flashed his shot blocking ability on multiple occasions in Summer League, and, for someone who wasn’t allowed to be aggressive blocking shots in college, he has great natural instincts helping over from the weakside at the rim. The biggest step for Payne defensively will be to cut down on his on-ball fouls. Where college lacks a verticality rule that the NBA has, which will allow him to go for more blocks, the NBA is much stricter on physical contact when defending on the ball.

“Just trying to learn how to defend the perimeter without touching,” Payne said. “You know, once you touch someone on the perimeter in the NBA they call a foul, so it’s a lot different.”

“The shooting element is there,  the defensive element is there, and making athletic plays,” Coach Ham said. “We just have to get him to stop fouling so much. In college they play a lot more physical than we do in the NBA. At the NBA level the big key is not to impede progress, so referees are a little more ticky tacky with how they call fouls as opposed to college where you can get into guys more. It will take some time, but he’s a smart kid, smart player, and he’ll make the proper adjustments.”

Payne has the potential to make an impact on the Hawks' team this season. He has the skill set to fit very well into Coach Bud’s system at both ends of the floor, shooting from the perimeter and attacking the rim on offense and being a presence at the rim on defense. The biggest step for him to take to earn himself consistent minutes in the regular season will be to become, as he noted, a more efficient shooter and being smarter with his physicality on defense. 

Story by Robby Kalland