The Oklahoma City Thunder drew a lot of criticism when they drafted Cameron Payne with the 14th overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft.
Not only did they already have a solid point guard in Russell Westbrook but there were also plenty of doubts about Payne's skills, given that he had attended a small college program in Murray State and hadn't been tested against elite competition.
Payne's NBA journey didn't get off to the best start. He was inconsistent as a scorer and struggled to get stops, and he was eventually traded to the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls were looking for a point guard for the future and thought Payne was a low-risk/high-reward kind of pickup. However, it seems like the coaching staff was far from impressed with his skills during practice, up to the point where they claimed that he didn't belong in the NBA:
“We knew the second practice [after he was acquired] that he couldn’t play at [an NBA] level,’’ the source said, as quoted by the Chicago Sun-Times. “The only reason it took two practices was because we thought maybe it was nerves in the first one. Any [Bulls] coach who says differently is lying. . . . We got ‘Garred’ on that one.’’
The Bulls eventually waived Payne and it seemed like he wasn't going to get another chance in the league. He signed a couple of 10-day contracts with the Cavs, then was signed and waived by the Raptors, and then he had to play overseas to get another shot at the league.
The Phoenix Suns gambled on him and gave him another chance, and now he's one of the most electrifying scorers coming off the bench.
Over two seasons with them, Payne has averaged 8.7 points, 3.5 assists, and 1.3 three-pointers per game, providing a lot of energy as the streaky scorer he is.
He's even playing a huge role for them in the playoffs with Chris Paul struggling with a shoulder injury, holding his own on defense, and knocking down big shot after big shot.
It takes some players a little longer to find their groove, and while Payne may no longer live up to what's expected of a lottery pick, he's proved that he belongs in this league.