Cameron Payne

Suns, Cameron Payne Agree To Three-Year Contract

Free agent reserve point guard Cameron Payne will return to the team that saw him develop into one of the league’s better backup ball handlers this season. After proving himself as a crucial role-playing contributor, Payne will remain with the Suns on a three-year, $19MM contract, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).

The 6’1″ Payne, 26, blossomed as a backup behind future Hall of Famer Chris Paul in Phoenix during a charmed 2020/21 season, which saw the Suns return to their first NBA Finals in 28 years.

After being initially drafted by the Thunder in 2015 with the No. 14 pick out of Murray State, Payne struggled to develop at the next level. Payne also served stints with Chicago and Cleveland before landing with Phoenix on a two-year deal ahead of the 2020 Orlando “bubble” restart. During his eight-game 2019/20 season cameo, Payne enjoyed a breakout run. Payne average 10.9 PP, 3.9 RPG and 3.0 APG across 22.9 MPG during Phoenix’s 8-0 bubble streak.

The stellar play continued during the 2020/21 season, as Payne averaged 8.4 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.4 RPG and 0.6 SPG in just 18.0 MPG in 60 games during Phoenix’s truncated 72-game regular season. Payne also posted a solid shooting line of .484/.440/893.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.

Fischer’s Latest: Bulls, Ball, Pelicans, Hornets, Lakers, Schröder, Knicks, More

While it’s possible the Bulls will sign restricted free agent point guard Lonzo Ball to an offer sheet in the four-year, $80MM range, doing so would be a risk, since the Pelicans could match that offer and leave Chicago empty-handed. According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, a possible three-team deal involving the Bulls, Pelicans, and Hornets could eliminate that risk and ensure Ball lands in Chicago.

The structure – which John Hollinger of The Athletic alluded to earlier today and which has seemingly gained traction, per Fischer – would see Ball going to the Bulls, Devonte’ Graham to the Pelicans, and Tomas Satoransky, Josh Hart, and draft assets to the Hornets.

Fischer cautions that this is only one idea in play and that things should become clearer once free agency opens. A sign-and-trade that only involves the Bulls and Pelicans – with Satoransky going to New Orleans – is also a possibility, he adds.

Here’s more from Fischer’s latest rumor roundup:

  • The Lakers haven’t given up on the possibility of acquiring Buddy Hield from the Kings, but they don’t appear to be working closely with Dennis Schröder‘s camp on a possible sign-and-trade arrangement, per Fischer.
  • The Knicks and Wizards are still considered possibilities for Schröder, according to Fischer. The veteran point guard is also believed to be one of the Bulls‘ targets if they can’t land Ball, Fischer notes, writing that Chicago has done its homework on DeMar DeRozan and Richaun Holmes as well.
  • The Knicks are widely believed to be a frontrunner to sign Evan Fournier, perhaps for a three-year deal worth about $18MM annually, Fischer reports. Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel are also strong candidates to re-sign with New York for deals worth about $10MM per year, Fischer adds.
  • Will Barton appears likely to return to the Nuggets, according to Fischer, who says a two-year, $32MM+ contract is a real possibility.
  • Cameron Payne is considered a good bet to re-sign with the Suns for a deal in the $6MM-per-year range, says Fischer.

Free Agent Rumors: Lowry, DeRozan, Knicks, Graham, Jackson, More

Now considered to be favorites to land Kyle Lowry in free agency, the Heat may try to bring in DeMar DeRozan as well, tweets Jordan Schultz of ESPN, confirming a series of reports from the last 24 hours.

Lowry and DeRozan were backcourt partners in Toronto for many years and have remained close friends. Miami is looking at a sign-and-trade as the best way to add Lowry, and is hoping that DeRozan might be available for the mid-level exception. That represents a big pay cut, but sources tell Schultz he might be interested if it means a chance to play alongside Lowry again.

If DeRozan turns down the MLE, the Heat will focus on finding a stretch four, says Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). There is support among the front office for Jeff Green, according to Jackson, who mentions Bobby Portis, Rudy Gay and Otto Porter as other options.

Meanwhile, Goran Dragic is expected to be part of a sign-and-trade with Toronto for Lowry, but the Raptors are unlikely to keep him. The Mavericks will be among the teams with interest in Dragic, according to Jackson (Twitter link).

Miami would also like to bring back reserve center Dewayne Dedmon, but he may get better offers, says Jackson (Twitter link). The Heat, who only hold Non-Bird rights on Dedmon, may have to offer part of their $3.6MM biannual exception to be competitive.

There’s more as the start of free agency draws closer:

  • The Knicks have some mutual interest with DeRozan, as well as Celtics shooting guard Evan Fournier, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Begley also hears that Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky would be part of the potential return in a sign-and-trade if Chicago lands Pelicans RFA Lonzo Ball, while rival teams expect Duncan Robinson to re-sign with the Heat.
  • While he isn’t necessarily their Plan A or B, Cameron Payne is one of the free agent point guards on the Knicks‘ radar, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. New York has considered a Payne/Derrick Rose tandem at point guard for next season, Berman adds.
  • The Thunder are seen by rival executives as a possible suitor for Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Graham is a restricted free agent, so Charlotte can match any offer, but Oklahoma City has the cap flexibility necessary to put pressure on the Hornets.
  • The Pelicans, Knicks, Celtics, and Nuggets are among the teams expected to express interest in point guard Reggie Jackson, per Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • EuroLeague standout Tyler Dorsey, who previously played for Atlanta and Memphis, is positioned for a return to the NBA and is drawing interest from several teams, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Knicks Notes: Noel, Payne, Grimes, Murphy

Nerlens Noel was a revelation for the Knicks this season. Signed to a one-year, $5MM deal to back up Mitchell Robinson, Noel stepped up to fill the starting spot for a majority of the season after multiple injuries kept Robinson out of the lineup, and was one of the best defensive centers in the league during that time.

Now, Noel is hitting unrestricted free agency once again and he spoke to Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype about the decision he’ll face.

Whether it’s a team that has or hasn’t been to the playoffs, I just want to help the team overall with my playing style and wreaking havoc defensively and catching lobs,” Noel said. “It’s about finding the right fit. Guard play that can help a big man excel. Small things like that I think will be an ideal fit.

Scotto writes that Noel could potentially double his 2020/21 earnings next year in whatever deal he signs. The Hornets, Mavericks, Nets and Raptors have been rumored to have interest in his services.

We have more news and notes on the Knicks:

  • Cameron Payne has had a remarkable last season-and-a-half for the Suns, which could put him in a position to secure a $10MM+ deal in this summer’s free agency, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Knicks, who are looking for answers at point guard and will have the most cap room of any team, could be a suitor for Payne, Berman writes. If Chris Paul stays in Phoenix, it will be difficult financially for the Suns to retain Payne.
  • The Knicks are considering Quentin Grimes with one of their two first-round picks, writes Berman in a separate article. The 6’4″ guard’s stock has risen considerably over the most recent season and the pre-draft process, and the Knicks were reportedly “wowed” by his combination of shot-making and defense during workouts.
  • Berman writes that the team also worked out Virginia’s Trey Murphy III on Tuesday. Murphy isn’t considered a high-ceiling prospect, but he fits head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s edict of getting “wings and guys who can shoot.” Berman reports that Oregon’s Chris Duarte is under consideration as well, and that the Lakers, picking one slot after the Knicks, have also shown interest in Murphy.

Knicks Notes: Point Guards, Thibodeau, Butler, Robinson

Finding a point guard will be an offseason priority for the Knicks, who have plenty of cap room and draft capital for their search, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. New York’s point guard situation was in shambles by the end of the playoffs, with Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina both out of the rotation and Derrick Rose slowed by a sore knee.

With close to $60MM available to spend, the Knicks can be aggressive on the free agent market. The Raptors‘ Kyle Lowry will be an option, and sources tell Berman that he has wanted to come to New York in the past. However, a long-term contract for the 35-year-old would be considered a gamble.

Lonzo Ball reportedly has interest in joining the Knicks, but he’s a restricted free agent, giving the Pelicans the right to match any offer. Another intriguing name is Spencer Dinwiddie, who might like the idea of moving across town if the Nets don’t make a sizeable offer. Dennis Schröder and Cameron Payne are also available.

If New York opts for a trade, the team has a pair of first-round picks (19 and 21) and two second-rounders (32 and 58) to offer in this year’s draft. Berman addresses the chances of acquiring Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, Kemba Walker and Jalen Brunson.

There’s more from New York City:

  • Coach Tom Thibodeau offered some insight into the Knicks’ draft plans during an appearance Friday on ESPN’s coverage of the combine, Berman adds. Thibodeau said the team wants to “add shooting — not just 3s, but off the dribble as well, wings and guys who can shoot.” He also talked about both trading up and trading out of the draft.
  • If the Knicks decide to find their next point guard through the draft, Baylor’s Jared Butler could be an option, according to Ryan Dunleavy of The New York Post. Butler, who is ranked 19th on ESPN’s list of the top 100 prospects, met with Knicks officials Thursday at the combine. “They just really tried to get to know me and pick my brain about certain situations in the game,” Butler said. “Asked about specific things about my time at Baylor, what I learned from that, and how I can translate to their team.”
  • Mitchell Robinson has been bulking up while recovering from surgery on his right foot. The Knicks tweeted a photo of him Friday at a lean 275 pounds after being listed at 240 pounds during the season.

Cameron Payne Cleared For Game 4

Suns guard Cameron Payne will be able to play in tonight’s Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Payne suffered a sprained left ankle after playing just four minutes in Thursday’s Game 3.

Payne did a tremendous job of filling in for Chris Paul while he was in the league’s health and safety protocols and had to miss the first two games of the series. Payne posted a career-best 29 points in a Game 2 victory, along with nine assists and no turnovers.

Payne is picking an opportune time to turn in the best performances of his career. He will be a free agent this summer and appears to be headed to a large payday, whether it’s with Phoenix or someone else.

A lottery pick in 2015, Payne played for three teams during his first four NBA seasons, then was out of the league last year until the Suns signed him for the restart in Orlando. Phoenix exercised its $1.98MM option on Payne before the start of this season.

Suns Notes: Payne, Paul, Booker, Ayton

After turning in a couple big performances in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals – both Suns wins – Cameron Payne was forced to leave Game 3 on Thursday after playing just four minutes. The veteran point guard suffered a sprained left ankle, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes.

With Payne unavailable, the Suns leaned heavily on Chris Paul, who logged 39 minutes in his first game back after clearing the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Head coach Monty Williams admitted after the game that he didn’t plan to play Paul so much and that he’s hopeful Payne will be available for Game 4 on Saturday to back up the team’s All-NBA point guard.

“Not having Cam to spell Chris put us in a bit of a bind,” Williams said, per McMenamin. “So hopefully (Payne) can come back and play in the next game.”

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Paul, who spent eight days in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, said he got the bad news last week from Suns senior director of health and performance Brady Howe, according to McMenamin. “I was laying in bed with my kids and got a text from Brady,” Paul said. “It is what it is. I dealt with it. Anybody with kids, anytime you’re going through something, the hardest part is being away from your kids and your family. Once you get over the shock of what’s happening, to hell with how and why. You just start figuring out how you can get better.”
  • After breaking his nose in Game 2 of the Western Finals, Devin Booker received eight shots of a numbing agent and had his nose reset back into place prior to Game 3, says McMenamin. Booker had to wear a face mask in Game 3 and struggled mightily, making just 5-of-21 shots from the floor, but he said he wasn’t affected by the injury or the mask. “The nose feels fine,” Booker said. “We just lost the game.”
  • The Suns faced some criticism over the years for passing on Luka Doncic with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, but Deandre Ayton has developed into exactly what the team needed, according to Royce Young of ESPN. “He’s just turning into a really dominant player, on both ends of the floor,” Williams said of his center.

Suns Notes: Ayton, Payne, Booker, Paul

Suns center Deandre Ayton is enjoying his first playoff experience, even though his team has lost two straight games to the Lakers, writes Rachel Gossen of Arizona Sports 98.7. Ayton led Phoenix with 22 points and 11 rebounds in Game 3 and is averaging 21.7 PPG and 12.3 RPG throughout the series.

The first pick in the 2018 draft suffered through a lot of losing before getting a shot at the postseason. The Suns began to turn things around with an 8-0 record during last summer’s restart and carried that momentum into a No.2 seed this season.

“It’s a big opportunity that we’re in the playoffs,” Ayton said. “We showed that the work that we’ve all put in, the stuff that we’ve went through, the adversity that we’ve went over, it brought us here. Now it’s just time to maintain and just play the best basketball we can play at the highest level.”

There’s more on the Suns:

  • Cameron Payne has been a surprise in the series, scoring eight of his 19 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2 and 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3, notes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. But even with Payne’s outburst, the Phoenix bench has been disappointing, providing just 26.7 PPG in the playoffs after averaging 37.0 during the season. “The bench has won us games this year and I’m looking for that right now,” coach Monty Williams said. “Every good playoff team has a game or two where the bench comes in and sustains or increases the momentum.”
  • Devin Booker won’t be suspended for his Flagrant 2 foul on Dennis Schröder late in Game 3, Rankin tweets. Booker was ejected for shoving Schröder to the ground on a drive to the basket. “That wasn’t a basketball play,” Schröder said, “and regular season, it’s probably a suspension as well.”
  • Chris Paul is listed as questionable on the Suns’ injury report for Game 4, according to NBA writer Gina Mizell (Twitter link). Paul sat out practice today with soreness in his left shoulder and has been limited since a collision in Game 1.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Pacific Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Pacific Division:

Kawhi Leonard, Clippers, 29, SF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $103MM deal in 2019

Until Giannis Antetokounmpo and other All-Stars decided to sign extensions, the summer of 2021 was considered a free agent bonanza. Leonard’s free agent foray two seasons ago, after leading the Raptors to the NBA championship, was one of the big stories of that summer. He chose to go to Los Angeles and the Clippers mortgaged their future by trading for Paul George to give him a superstar sidekick. It could all unravel for the franchise this year if the Clippers lose to the Mavericks in the opening round. Leonard was expected to opt out this summer so that he could maximize his salary with his current team. Now, other contenders might kick the tires to see if Leonard would be willing to jump ship again. If nothing else, the Clippers’ front office will be sweating it out until Leonard signs the bottom line.

Cameron Payne, Suns, 26, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $2.2MM deal in 2019

It’s become an annual and unfortunate occurrence in the NBA postseason – Chris Paul suffers an injury at the worst time. Paul’s shoulder issue has limited his minutes against the Lakers the last two games and those minutes have gone to Payne. Not surprisingly, Phoenix has lost both contests but Payne has posted respectable numbers, averaging 17 PPG, 6.5 APG and 2.5 SPG in 30 MPG. The 2015 lottery pick struggled to find an NBA home until he signed with the Suns for their games in the Orlando bubble. Payne has found his niche as a second-unit point guard and if the Suns don’t re-sign him, some other team will take him for that same role.

Alex Caruso, Lakers, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $5MM deal in 2019

Caruso doesn’t make a big dent in the stat sheet but he’s a pesky defender and energetic spark plug off the bench. He averaged 6.5 PPG, 2.8 APG, 2.3 RPG and 1.1 SPG in 24.3 MPG during the Lakers’ run to the championship last season. He’s averaging 21 MPG through their first three playoff games this season against the Suns. Caruso seems like a nice fit on the Lakers, dutifully playing his role while knocking down the occasional 3-pointer and looking to advantage of opportunities when his defender cheats off him. The unrestricted free agent will likely get a nice bump in salary.

Hassan Whiteside, Kings, 31, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.3MM deal in 2020

Whiteside was valued so much by the Heat in 2016 he was signed to a four-year, $98.4MM deal. Few teams will covet Whiteside’s services when he reaches free agency again this summer. He had to settle for the veteran’s minimum last offseason and his one season with the Kings was rather forgettable. He was relegated to backup duty, averaging 15.2 MPG in the 36 games that coach Luke Walton used him. Whiteside didn’t play after April 21, supposedly due to lower back tightness. He can still be useful as a rebounder and shot blocker in a reserve role but he’ll have to settle for the veteran’s minimum once again.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lowe’s Latest: K. Williams, Payne, Monk, Burks, Hartenstein

For the 10th year in a row, ESPN’s Zach Lowe has named his end-of-season “Luke Walton All-Stars,” honoring overlooked rotation players and NBA journeymen who have impressed him most over the course of the year.

Nets guard Bruce Brown, Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Raptors teammates Yuta Watanabe and DeAndre’ Bembry are among the players who made Lowe’s list, which also includes a handful of interesting tidbits on some of his choices. Here are a few highlights:

  • Thunder forward Kenrich Williams, who resisted signing a two-way contract multiple times earlier in his career, has enjoyed a breakout year in Oklahoma City. Sources tell Lowe that several playoff teams expressed trade interest in Williams prior to March’s deadline, but he wanted to remain in OKC, where he’s under contract for two more years (both non-guaranteed).
  • Suns guard Cameron Payne told Lowe that he thought his NBA career might be over in 2020, when the Mavericks opted to sign Trey Burke over him for the summer restart after he had played well for Dallas’ G League affiliate. However, he got an opportunity shortly thereafter with Phoenix, in large part because head coach Monty Williams had gotten to know him during their time with the Thunder.
  • Another former first-round pick, Hornets guard Malik Monk, was concerned about his NBA career last year as well, following his suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy, his brother Marcus Monk told Lowe. The former Kentucky standout has enjoyed a career year while trying to let go of tension about his role, Lowe writes. “Guys who have success in college think the NBA is going to go a certain way,” Marcus said. “You think you’re invincible. Malik fell victim to that. I’m proud of how he matured.”
  • Before he signed a one-year, $6MM contract with the Knicks last fall, Alec Burks discussed a deal with the Bulls, according to Lowe. Burks’ familiarity with Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant from their time in Utah was a factor in his decision to choose New York.
  • After an underwhelming stint in Denver, Isaiah Hartenstein has played well for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.3 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 16 games (17.9 MPG). Lowe says he wouldn’t be surprised if Hartenstein turns down his minimum-salary player option for 2021/22 to seek a new deal.