After Jevon Carter left town to sign with the rivaling Chicago Bulls, the Milwaukee Bucks needed to find a backup point guard this past off-season.
For much of the off-season, it seemed like they were content entering the new season without a new backup in Carter's place, but that changed once they freed up a roster spot in the Damian Lillard deal. That paved the way for them to bring aboard Cameron Payne, who had recently been released by the San Antonio Spurs following a trade from the Phoenix Suns to cut salary.
Milwaukee managed to sign Payne for a minimum deal, which was viewed as a steal at the time and has proven to be a steal thus far this season. Although it's still incredibly early, Payne has wasted no time finding his footing with the Bucks, as he's been one of the team's most reliable reserves through the first handful of games.
As a key reserve, Cameron Payne has found his stride early with the Milwaukee Bucks
On paper, Payne's stats might not jump right off the page - 6.8 points, 2.1 assists, and one rebound in 17.9 minutes per game - but he's still been making an impact.
Payne's offensive production has been a big boost. Though he's been a tad inconsistent, he's mostly been good, clocking in four double-digit scoring efforts in 11 contests this season, with two of them coming in his last three appearances. Heading into the year, there were questions about which Bucks not named Bobby Portis would help score off the bench, and Payne has helped in that regard so far.
He's done so extremely efficiently, shooting 50 percent from the floor and 53.6 percent from behind the arc, both of which are career highs. To put into perspective just how good Payne's shooting has been from deep, among players who have attempted at least 20 3-pointers this season, Payne has the second-most efficient success rate, trailing only OKC's Carson Wallace, per NBA.com.
A significant reason for Payne's 3-point success has been the quality of looks he's gotten. Of his 15 3-point makes this season, nine of them have been categorized as "wide-open." Alongside players such as Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Payne has gotten incredible looks from distance, and he's cashed in, shooting 50 percent on these wide-open 3-point tries.
He's given the team a mighty second-unit scoring spark, which will be essential moving forward after Jae Crowder went under the knife recently. Portis, Payne, and MarJon Beauchamp have proven to be a nice scoring trio off of this bench, and if they can continue to put points on the board, it would be a huge lift for this Milwaukee team.
Defensively, the 6-foot-3 Payne has never been much of a force. So far, that has been the case with the Bucks as well, but there's no denying he's putting forth the effort to try and make an impact on that side of the ball in Adrian Griffin's system. For a team looking for as much help defensively as they can get, it helps when players are fully bought in.
Speaking of putting in effort, Payne has played with an immeasurable amount of energy whenever he's stepped onto the court. Whether he just knocked down a tough three, dished out a nice assist or is catching his breath on the bench, Payne always has his energy cranked all the way up, cheering on his teammates and wearing his heart on his sleeve. It never hurts to have a player like that in town.
Yes, it's early, but Payne has been a nice addition to this Milwaukee rotation thus far. There is still a lot of season left to be played, and it will be interesting to see if Payne can sustain this high level of play. If the guard can keep it up, his importance to this team will be incredibly high.
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