Cameron Payne didn’t wait long to impress during his Summer League debut.
The 14th overall pick proved capable of thriving at either guard position, running the point during a dominant stretch in the opening quarter then closing out the game with a clutch jumper at shooting guard.
The 16 point, seven rebound, four assist, two steal performance from Payne is the type of production the Thunder expected from the sophomore guard.
Proving he can deliver when it matters most was one of the primary goals Payne set for himself entering the tournament.
Payne clinched an 86-85 victory for Oklahoma City in the opening game of the 2016 NBA Summer League with a swish from 3-point range with just 3.3 seconds remaining.
The game winning shot came with his newest teammate — newly acquired guard Victor Oladipo — in attendance for the game.
“I hit that shot for him, I knew he was watching, so I’m glad it went in,” Payne said. “I just took the shot and it went in. It definitely felt good, but it’s just the first game. I’ve got a long week ahead.”
Following 57 appearances during his rookie season, as he spent 95 percent of his time on the court playing point guard, Payne is looking to establish himself as a shooting guard.
The adjustment is a necessity if he is going to play consistent minutes alongside All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook next season.
“If you can’t play off the ball, then your role is really going to be limited,” Thunder Summer League coach Mark Daigneault said. “That’s definitely something that translates.”
In Orlando, Payne lined up next to point guard Semaj Christon for extended stretches, including the most critical possession of the game.
Following a timeout, Oklahoma City intended to run a play for center Mitch McGary.
Only the defensive scheme the Mavericks employed forced McGary to give up the ball at the top of the key to Christon.
He drove to the foul line and kicked it out to Payne for an open look on the wing. Without hesitation, the 6-foot-3 guard elevated and sank the shot.
Along with honing his skill as a shooting guard, Payne is intent on adding pounds to his 185 pound frame.
Since the end of the regular season, Payne has altered his diet and weight training regimen.
“I lift a lot more weights now. I try and get as much in as I can,” Payne said. “It’s all about my eating habits and I’m improving those. (I’m eating) steaks and anything that is going to put some pounds on me.”
Kevin Durant can shift the entire franchise in free agency this summer, the Thunder are just hoping Payne can either provide the team with a scoring punch if he leaves, or become a key contributor to its core going forward.