LAS VEGAS – Wolves second-year forward Adreian Payne has come to summer league camp with his current team for the first time and to Las Vegas for the second time as a professional with goals set seemingly in varying proportions.
No. 1: “I’m just trying to prove myself to the coaches.”
And No. 2 …
“And just dominate,” he said.
Buried on Atlanta’s bench or in the Development League until traded in February, Payne in many ways begins again with the Wolves with summer camp and a complete fall training camp ahead. He intends to impress with rebounding and defense and to exert his will in games by spreading opposing defenses because of his ability — and willingness — to shoot the three-pointer.
He needs to do so with those things and an improved grasp of coach Flip Saunders’ strategies on a team now loaded with power forward types, particularly those of the “stretch” kind. The list: Kevin Garnett, Karl-Anthony Towns and for now Anthony Bennett and newly acquired Damjan Rudez. Robbie Hummel could be re-signed, too.
“I feel good about it,” Payne said. “I feel good about coming in, having a full training camp and learning the system.”
The No. 15 pick in the 2014 NBA draft out of Michigan State, Payne still is getting used to his new home. Even though he arrived in February and played the season’s final weeks with the Wolves, Payne is spending part of his summer making the move from the home he established in Atlanta with the Hawks to Minnesota.
“I’m still not settled in,” Payne said. “I’m still in the process of moving, still haven’t found a place yet because the market is crazy out here. I’ve been moving, packing, doing a little bit of everything.”
He also has been working on his game, whether it’s back in Atlanta or at the Wolves’ fancy new practice facility, where he spent part of June.
“Ball-handling, threes, post moves, just all around my game,” Payne said of his summer. “A little bit of everything.”
At 6-10, he gives the Wolves legitimate NBA power forward size and athleticism. He also possesses a shooting touch fairly uncommon in such a big man, as long as he remembers he still is a big man. Those are some of the reasons Saunders was willing to commit a 2017 first-round pick to Atlanta in last February’s trade.
Payne shot 3-for-5 from three-point range during his 16-point, nine-rebound performance Saturday in Vegas, when the Wolves lost 84-71 to Chicago.
He went 6-for-12 from the field overall against the Bulls, one day after he went 4-for-13 and didn’t attempt a three-pointer in an 81-68 victory over the Lakers.
“In moderation, in moderation,” Wolves summer league coach Ryan Saunders said when asked about Payne’s three-point shooting. “We watch a lot of film and we want guys to shoot with confidence, but we address good and bad shots, too.”
A big man who can shoot with range, though, can transform a game. A guy named Garnett helped demonstrate that 20 years ago.
“It makes my job a lot easier when he can spread the floor and make his man have to commit,” rookie teammate Tyus Jones said. “It helps, helps a lot. It gives you open lanes. It just makes your job easier as a point guard.”
Jones and Payne connected on a higher-percentage play against the Bulls on Saturday, when Jones took Towns’ long outlet pass and in an instant found Payne running to the rim for an authoritative slam dunk.
An optimistic Wolves fan might have seen that and envisioned the future.
“I think so,” Jones said when asked if more of that can be expected. “A couple alley-oops, some highlight plays, it just shows we’re going to have excitement surrounding this team.”