September 11, 2012 in Division I
Yesterday, DraftExpress listed Michigan’s Trey Burke and MSU’s Branden Dawson among their top five NBA prospects in the Big Ten. Today, they posted Nos. 6-10 and two more Michigan State players made the list.
Adreian Payne came in at No. 7:
Payne’s skill level in general is still below average for a junior big man with NBA potential, but he showed a considerable learning curve over the past two years, most notably with his much improved shooting. His FT% went from a dismal 48.6% on one attempt per game to a respectable 69.7% on 2.4 attempts per game, and he also showed flashes of turnaround jumpers in the post and even some 10-15 footers later in the season. While his in-game shot isn’t NBA-ready by a long shot, he shows solid mechanics and appears to be putting in the work, making it something to watch out for this season.
Defensively, Payne has also taken some strong steps forward, developing into a pretty effective post defender who does a good job taking advantage of his physical tools. While his fundamentals are still a little rough around the edges and he’s prone to being overpowered against players who are in his league physically, he does a good job moving his feet and using his length to contest shots, being tough to score on for most opponents. He focused less on blocking shots this season, but still is a worthy threat there with his length and mobility. Things are less encouraging for Payne at this stage on the perimeter, where he looks mostly lost in pick-and-roll defense despite having considerable potential down the road with his elite physical tools.
Keith Appling came in at No. 9:
Appling’s biggest calling card as a NBA prospect lies in his play on the defensive side of the ball. Although not incredibly big or strong, he’s a tough, intense and extremely competitive guard, highly attentive and capable of putting excellent pressure on the ball. Michigan State wasthe third bestdefensive team in college basketball last season, and Appling played no small part in that.
Appling’s development as an offensive player over the next two seasons will likely play a key role in how he’s viewed from a NBA standpoint. If he can improve his outside shooting and show that he can be called upon to create offense reliably off the dribble, he’ll be in good shape to carve out a career for himself at the professional level. He has all the makings of a very solid NBA backup point guard, provided he can continue to iron out the wrinkles in his offensive game.
Appling is a superior defensive player and athlete to Burke, but has further to go to be considered a true ‘point guard.’ He can get away with playing shooting guard at the college level, but if he’s going to stick in the NBA, he’ll have to show at some point that he can run an offense and create for others, as well as getting his own offense, on a regular basis. He has further to go to get to that point, but he also might have a higher ceiling if he can figure it out.