Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne suffered an ankle injury in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals and did not return versus the Los Angeles Clippers. He played just four minutes and had two points. Though the Suns' loss is not the direct consequence of his absence, there's no denying Payne has been a key part of the team's success.
Payne is averaging 11.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists across 22.6 minutes in the playoffs. He's part of Monty Williams' second unit though the head coach has inserted him in the critical moments of the game. His numbers don't scream at you. If you're a Suns fan, you may even recall some of Payne's struggles and unnecessary errors. But for the most part, Payne's offensive abilities and knowledge of Williams' playbook make him a key asset.
His 29-point performance in Game 2 is a clear indication that Cam Payne is the Suns' X-factor. It's also good proof that teams who have reached the Conference Finals have a set of players who have played their roles well. Suns fans should stay tuned for Payne's injury status—if he'll be out for a few games or worse, be out for the entire series.
By now, it should be clear to them that Cam Payne is one of the critical pieces to their success so far. And if they go on without him, then the Suns' title hopes might go down the drain.
Let's have a look at what Cam Payne brings to the table and what makes him so valuable.
Cam Payne attributes for Suns: Fearless Offensive Game
Payne's offensive package consists of strong and fearless drives to the hoop. The highlight reel below shows how he takes advantage of that massive wingspan. It doesn't even look or feel that he stands just 6-foot-1 and has a lanky body. Cam Payne seems to have perfected that stretch lay-up. He also has a sneaky floater reminiscent of Tony Parker or even Trae Young.
But how does he get that close to the hoop in the first place? Simple: the hesitation move. He doesn't look like it, but Cam Payne is one heck of an explosive player. Just look at how he easily gets to the ring when he unveils that hesitation move.
Catch and Shoot
Apart from his strong drives, he also has a catch-and-shoot in his offensive arsenal. Yes, his jump shot looks awkward. But it gets the job done. There's a reason why defenders try their best to close out on him though he's several feet behind the 3-point line. The guy's shooting abilities should be respected.
So far, he's shooting at 35.0 percent from downtown which is still good. Whenever defenses collapse on Devin Booker, he won't hesitate to dish it off to a wide-open Cam Payne. The same is true for Chris Paul whenever he orchestrates the offense.
In fact, maybe it's even Paul who continues to encourage Payne to shoot when he's open.
His defense is more of a side note. We have yet to see Payne's defensive chops in full bloom. However, we have to look at how his length has made it difficult for the Clippers to sneak in some passes. Payne knows his asset and uses it well. Notice how he makes himself bigger by simply stretching his arms out when the offense tries to make a pass. He doesn't always get the deflection or the steal. He makes the offense work harder which is something of note.