First reported by NBA insider Keith Smith on Thursday afternoon, former Murray State Racer and 2015 NBA lottery pick Cameron Payne had his team option for 2020-21 picked up by the Phoenix Suns, extending his stay in the professional ranks for the foreseeable future.
After joining the NBA’s Disney Bubble during the 2019-20 season restart, Payne was effective as a second-unit commander, averaging 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steal in 22.9 minutes off the bench. He shot 48.5% from the field and 51.7% from the arc, while the Suns finished at 8-0 as the only undefeated squad during the reset.
It wasn’t enough to get Phoenix into the No. 8-seed conversation in the West, as the Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trailblazers defended their precipitous leads. But Payne’s effort was apparently enough to keep him on the books, and now he’s in line to become the backup of newly-acquired future NBA Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul.
Payne was nearly off the league’s radar before a trip to China, and a productive bout in the NBA’s G-League, brought him back to the surface. Last season with the Texas Legends, the Dallas Mavericks’ affiliate, Payne averaged 23.2 points, 7.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 combined steals/blocks per game — which caught Suns’ coach Monty Williams’ attention. Williams was the assistant to Billy Donovan when Payne was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 14th overall pick in 2015.
Payne’s $1.9 million contract carries a $25,000 guarantee for the upcoming season.