Lowe: Suns G Cameron Payne named a 2021 Luke Walton All-Star

May 13, 2021, 7:17 AM

Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) shoots over Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn (25) during the fi...

Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) shoots over Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn (25) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

The Phoenix Suns set themselves up for success with the roster general manager James Jones constructed over the past two seasons.

While not every move will be of the same magnitude as the Chris Paul acquisition this past offseason, some of Phoenix’s other additions have proved their worth.

One of which is Cameron Payne, who joined Phoenix for the NBA bubble in 2020 and has carved out a nice role since, averaging 8.0 points, 3.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds over 17.6 minutes per game as Paul’s primary backup this season.

So much so that ESPN’s Zach Lowe named Payne to his 2021 Luke Walton All-Star team, which honors NBA journeymen who have managed to stay in the association.

After being selected with the 14th overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft by the Thunder, one pick lower than Devin Booker (13), Payne started just one of his 57 games played for Oklahoma City his rookie season. He would play 20 more games with the Thunder the following season before he was traded away to Chicago in 2017.

Lowe outlined Payne’s exhausting journey back to the NBA, highlighting his numerous stops that included a short stint in China (two games played). This all coming after he had been cut by the Bulls in January 2019 and signed two 10-day contracts with the Cleveland Cavaliers that led nowhere.

In a last ditch effort to stay in the league, Payne played in the NBA Summer League, eventually getting a camp invite from the Toronto Raptors. He would not stick with the Raptors, however, deciding to try his luck in China before signing with the Dallas Mavericks’ G League team, the Texas Legends.

Despite averaging 24 points and eight assists before coronavirus put a halt on things, the Mavericks opted to go in a different direction, favoring Trey Burke over Payne.

“That’s going to be it for me,” Payne told Lowe when looking back at his G League days.

But just as it seemed Payne was out of luck, Suns head coach Monty Williams came calling.

During a pre-signing call, Williams asked Payne if he remembered a conversation at the Thunder’s practice facility during Payne’s rookie season. It was early in the morning, but Russell Westbrook was already working out. “How bad do you want to play? Williams asked Payne then. “Beat him to the gym. That’s how it sticks.”

While Payne wasn’t sure what to expect, he was quickly thrown into the fire during the NBA bubble, playing meaningful minutes from the start.

Payne may have found his NBA niche, but his work is far from over.

He’s back but not quite all the way. “Not until I sign that next deal,” Payne says.

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