East Lansing, MI – 2014 NBA Draft first round prospects, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne both overcame slow starts as the Michigan State Spartans eventually edged the visiting Ohio State Buckeyes 72-68 in overtime.
Harris, the smooth 6’4″ 2G with lottery type credentials, didn’t score his first points until the 8:03 mark of the first half when he canned a triple. He later hit a 17-foot jumper off the dribble to end the half with five points. Payne, the 6-10 stretch #4, didn’t start the game because of a gimpy ankle and didn’t score until he made two mid-range jumpers at the 2:53 and 2:04 marks to finish with four points at the half.
Both players warmed up considerably in the second half as MSU eventually built a seemingly insurmountable 17-point lead (55-38) at the 7:14 mark. During this time, Harris made another trey and two more mid-range jumpers (one an impressive left wing pull up in transition). He ended with 13 points on 5-of-10 from the floor and added five rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block in 42 minutes.
Payne was even better in the second stanza, adding a break trailing triple from the top of the key, two thunderous put back slams and another mid range jumper. He ended with 18 points on 7-of-14 from the floor and added six rebounds, an assist and a steal.
However, in the last 7:14, the Buckeyes outscored MSU 20-3 to tie the game in regulation 58-58. OSU forced nine Spartan turnovers during this period (two by Harris and one by Payne).
While Harris’ numbers weren’t eye opening, he had another in a series of games where he has demonstrated that he is one this year’s draft classes premier wing prospects. He is extremely efficient as he has an ideal balance of attacking while under control. While he primarily scores with his jump shot, both long and mid- range, he is very effective in transition and can also get into the lane off the bounce in the half court.
Indiana’s Coach Tom Crean called Harris an “assassin” after he recently torched the Hoosiers for 26 points in Bloomington. In that game and again tonight, Harris impressed as a highly motivated, hard working, highly skilled basketball player who also happens to be a high level athlete. Concerns are he is a bit undersized at the #2 and possible ball handling issues as the secondary handler against good pressure.
In spite of Payne not starting and logging just 32 of the possible 45 minutes, he once again had many outstanding moments which give credence to his mid to late first round projections in June’s draft. Matched against Ohio State’s 6-11 Amir Johnson at the low block, Payne was just average. Williams is a premier defender at this level to begin with and Payne really only dominates inferior competition with his back to the basket. However, if you put Payne in transition or facing up and you have a totally different story. He is a great runner, has great shooting range and if you jam him, he can put the ball on the floor, make good decisions and finish. He sees the floor very well and is a better than average passer.
MSU’s Branden Dawson is also highly regarded player and is a projected by some as a late 2015 first rounder. However, in this game (4 points/4 rebounds in 34 minutes) and others, it is sometimes difficult to match potential with performance.
He is really an undersized #4 at 6’6″ (think Jason Maxiell) and really operates best in and around the lane and in transition, While he is very athletic (run/jump) and has a highly sculpted body, at the end of the day, he needs to carve out a playing niche. He doesn’t seem able to do this skill wise so he needs to utilize his body, athletic ability, focus and motor to excel. It seems he’s lacking sometimes in the latter two traits.
There were three possible 2nd round guards in the game- Ohio State’s 2014 class 6’2″ Aaron Craft and 2015 class, 6’1” Shannon Scott as well as MSU’s 6’1″ Keith Appling (2014).
All three would project as backup point guards in the league and while second rounders are very much “in the eye of the beholder” evaluated, it seems that Craft (nine points, two rebounds, six assists) has the best chance to land on a roster because of the specificity of his outstanding defensive ability on the ball. You’d like him to be a better offensive player and he will at the next level when he doesn’t have to try so hard creating as he does with OSU. (4 TO’s). Appling has the most ability of this group and had the best game (20 points, six rebounds, seven assists) but had five turnovers (four in the late game implosion). Appling plays the point for MSU but he has been in conversion for four years and he is not a natural PG. Scott bears watching for 2015.
Don Sicko is a Correspondent and Scout for NetScouts Basketball.