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#ThunderRank: No. 7 – Cameron Payne

#ThunderRank: No. 7 – Cameron Payne
#ThunderRank – A look at the top 17 players for the Thunder and how their seasons might shake outPlayer Summary

The good thing about doing a running list that is active is being able to make changes on the fly if something unexpected arises. I’ll be honest: I initially had Cameron Payne a little higher in the ranking. But with the news this morning that Payne broke his fifth metatarsal for the second time this calendar year, his placement in the ranking had to be moved down. The unfortunate injury occurred in the first half of the Blue-White scrimmage on Tuesday when Payne attempted to drive on forward Josh Huestis, but fell awkwardly as Huestis blocked his shot. Payne was initially diagnosed with a sprained ankle, but further tests revealed the re-break.

With the Oklahoma City Thunder’s previous history with surgery-necessitating injuries, the outcome for Payne this season is in question. The team officially listed him with the dreaded “out indefinitely” tag. When I asked Payne at media day when he and the team found out about the original break, his answer was a bit surprising in both his quickness to correct the type of injury and in the chronology of the organization’s treatment towards the injury.

Well, it wasn’t broken. That was just a little crack. I found out late December, and they said it was tolerable, so I could play through it. And I was all for that. I didn’t have this little injury for a long time. This summer was a good time for me to get it fixed. But I wanted to play through it. I didn’t want to get surgery during the season. I wanted to play Summer League and there was enough time, and like now, I’m on the way back, and I’m able be ready for training camp.

That quote was alarming to me because Payne knew at some point last season that he would be needing surgery. For a team that has dealt with post-surgical complications before, to wait until the end of July for one of their key cogs to get a surgery that was known about months before is both irresponsible and a gross mismanagement by the organization. Because of his thin frame, Payne isn’t likely to continue suffering from foot ailments once they address this issue. But in what was supposed to be a very important season, not just for the organization, but also for Payne, its a shame he may be spending some of it (or all of it) in a walking boot or scooter.

2015-16 Statistics

57 GP, 12.2 mins, 5.0 pts, 1.5 rebs, 1.9 asts, 0.6 stls, 41.0% FG, 32.4% 3pt FG, 79.2% FT

Best-Case Scenario

The best-case scenario for Payne and the Thunder is for him to come back from this hiccup completely healthy and play the rest of the season at full strength. The time-table for this type of injury is about 6-8 weeks. If the team takes the conservative approach and waits about 10 weeks, that puts Payne returning in the beginning of December. That’s enough time to get into the swing of things and find his footing in the rotation.

For Payne, a good season would be one where he consistently stays on the floor and takes command of the bench unit when he’s out there with them. Whether its scoring or playmaking, the reserves probably go as he goes. In addition, the possibility of him, Russell Westbrook, and Victor Oladipo on the floor at the same time is something many opposing small ball lineups will have problems with.

Worst-Case Scenario

Hopefully, it’s already happened. The problem with this type of situation is that the Thunder are currently in a holding pattern. They are gathering information and plotting the best course of action for Payne and the team. That could be something as simple as rest, or it could be as complicated as another surgery. And then when he does come back, it’ll be touch and go for a while there. The worst has hopefully already passed, but as we’ve seen with Kevin Durant and Westbrook in the past, surgical complications are a definite possibility.

Percentage he gets traded sometime during the season:

15% – Payne is one of the Thunder’s most realistic, tradeable assets. He’s a young guard with potential on a rookie-scale deal. The Thunder have tendencies to trade away their secondary ball-handlers before they reach restricted free agency in attempts to squeeze as much value out of them as possible. In this scenario, though, the Thunder may be searching for a coveted piece, and Payne, who’s still two seasons away from restricted free agency, may be the necessary piece to get such a player. Unfortunately, the foot injury probably tanks his trade value for this season.

Payne’s Season Preview

We likely won’t see Payne until late November at the earliest. Foot injuries can be a scary thing for basketball  players, especially for someone who is as quick and shifty as Payne. But his thin frame may actually be advantageous for these types of injuries. Once Payne steps back on the floor, I see a player that will likely build off his up and down rookie campaign, and become a more consistent entity within the Thunder’s rotation.