With the 15th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft the Atlanta Hawks selected Adreian Payne. Since the selection many Hawks fans have debated over whether Payne was the right selection or, whether the Hawks should have gone in the direction of picking a wing player with upside. At 23, Payne was the oldest selection in the first round. While the argument remains as to whether the Hawks should have picked a player with more upside or someone who can contribute now the fact of the matter is Payne has been selected and there is no going back in time to change the picks. Rather than dwelling on who should have been picked the discussion of Payne should shift to how much value Payne can add to an Atlanta team on the rise.
Adrieian Payne was the 28th senior to be picked in the 1st round in the last 6 drafts (including this one). He was also the 7th senior to be picked in the top 15 in the last 6 drafts. The Hawks drafted for an immediate impact player and that's exactly what they are going to get with the selection of Payne. Over the previous 5 drafts (2009-2013), the 26 seniors picked in the 1st round, for the most part, have done exactly what the Hawks want, which is immediate impact. As you can see in the graphic below, only 3 of the 26 seniors have had their career average win shares below 0 (AVG WS), which is to say most of them helped their teams add wins and continue adding wins to their team, even with the notion that they have "little" potential.
What's even more surprising is that even though seniors have been said to have little room for improvement, 7 of the 26 seniors have seen their win shares on the rise since they entered the association. As per the graphic, it is also important to note that only 8 of the 26 seniors have seen their win shares per season on a downward trend, meaning that 18 of them have seen their contribution to the team at either consistent or improving levels. This means that Payne will most likely be able to contribute to this team immediately, and be able to sustain or improve that production.
While the graphic on average win shares is a useful tool, it doesn't really take into account the amount of minutes these guys are playing. Someone could have a decent average win shares but not playing many minutes which means that they are having an impact on the floor but the contribution will be minimal because of the low amount of time on the floor, in other words it may not be sustainable. To fix this problem, I took an in depth look on how draftees thrust into the position of being a role player in their first season did production-wise. For the purposes of this article, we will assume a role player is one who averages at least 15 minutes per game. Considering the consensus is that Payne will be a role player I thought it would be useful to see how much of an impact role players give their teams in their 1st season, in terms of win shares.
Taking a look at the above graphic, we can see that all but 2 players thrust into the position of being a role player added wins to their team. The exceptions were Norris Cole and Terrence Williams. While Williams hasn't really panned out, Cole has turned into a decent player. Also, I wouldn't worry about Payne being the next Terrence Williams in terms of production because Payne doesn't appear to have the attitude issues that Williams had.
What becomes more surprising as we continue to analyze the win shares of first year role players is that the average win shares for these players is 1.945. This means that seniors who received 15 minutes or more per game after being drafted accounted for 1.945 of their teams wins. While that number may seem small if that estimation were put into the Hawks win loss totals and Al Horford's win shares (approximately 6 more than last season due to injury) we're put into Atlanta's win loss totals, the Hawks would be looking at 8 more wins with Payne and Horford just in Payne's first season.
The good thing is though, Payne will most likely be a Hawk for multiple seasons. As long as Coach Bud can find him about 15-22 minutes in his first season Payne will project to add a solid contribution to the team down the road. Considering Payne's strong work ethic that shouldn't be a problem. If Payne gets those minutes early he projects to increase his win shares. What's even more interesting is the case of big men who are able to establish themselves early on as role players. They have a win share average of 3.477, the largest of any category as shown above. For comparison, Paul Millsap added about 7 and a half wins to the Hawks this year. I myself was even surprised about the impact that senior role playing big men had on their teams early on in their career. Senior players picked in the top 15 don't even have a win share average that equals that of role playing big men. It is imperative though to get Payne his minutes early to help develop him because if he doesn't he does project poorly. Senior big men who weren't role players in their 1st season only averaged 1.233 win shares which is very low compared to the 3.477 by role playing big men.
Adreian Payne appears to be ready to contribute to the Hawks as long as Coach Bud can find minutes for him. It will be tough because of the log-jam down low but by letting some of the current players walk in free agency, Payne can add that immediate impact Atlanta is looking for. Expect Payne to be a role player for his career, but to be a pretty good one at that.