MINNEAPOLIS — A 6-foot-10 power forward with the ability to rebound and shoot 3-pointers was working out on the Target Center floor on Saturday.
Not so fast. It wasn’t Kevin Love making his return to the home court.
Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, a possible target for the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 13 pick in the NBA Draft on June 26, was one of six prospects working out for Minnesota on Saturday in workouts led by newly appointed coach Flip Saunders.
Included in the workout were UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, California’s Justin Cobbs — a former University of Minnesota player â Baylor forward Cory Jefferson, Georgetown guard Markel Starks and Marquette forward Jamil Wilson.
"I think I shot the ball pretty good," Payne said. "Near the end I was a little tired, but I fought through it and still finished. But I think I competed well and showed what I could do . . . I think what a lot of people are looking for in these workouts and what I’m working on is showing I can hit the 3. Make the 3 and extend my range. I think I showed it that way."
Payne made a dramatic rise to prominence in his final season with the Spartans this past season when he was named second-team All-Big Ten by scoring 16.4 points, grabbing 7.3 rebounds and knocking down 1.4 3-pointers per game, while shooting .423 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
Sounds a lot like Love, Minnesota’s disgruntled star, right?
Payne wasn’t willing to go that far. Instead of Love, Payne sees a resemblance in his game to Oklahoma Thunder forward Serge Ibaka.
"He’s a stretch 4 and he can play inside and out, plays defense with intensity and can hit the 3," Payne said.
Comparisons aside, Payne might just have the chance to follow Love in Minnesota. If Love is indeed traded, Payne could be a prime target for the Timberwolves at No. 13.
Payne, 23, progressed dramatically during his time at Michigan State. He jumped from 10.5 points per game to 16.4 as a senior and really developed his shooting stroke from beyond the arc. After taking only 45 3-pointers — and making 17 — in his first three years for the Spartans, Payne shot 44 of 104 (42.3 percent) as a senior.
But Payne felt the shooting ability was always there.
"Yeah, I could always shoot it," Payne said. "(Michigan State coaches) just polished it and made it much better."
Minnesota pushed him through a series of shooting drills at the end of Saturday’s workout when the big 245-pounder was tired. He felt he handled the workout well, but the grind of the draft workouts showed.
Payne said he’s had five workouts for NBA teams already with two more still scheduled.
"It’s tough, especially flying city to city," Payne said. "These workouts is all tough, they’re competitive. Everybody is out there trying to show what they can do and you just want to go out there and perform your best."
He impressed his fellow workout partners.
"Very explosive, can step outside and knock it down, finishes strong in the paint," Anderson said.
Cobbs added: "I see a big guy who can really shoot the ball very, very well. Works very well off the pick and pop, works well in space, got a good jab step and that mid-range is automatic."
A big man that can shoot might be of interest to the Timberwolves, but the likeness to Love isn’t the only Minnesota connection.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is good friends with Saunders.
Payne wouldn’t mind if that connection paid off for him, but he didn’t get any inside info on Saunders from Izzo.
"He just tells me he’s a good guy and they’re real close," Payne said. "You know how it is, they’re coaches and they talk highly about each other."
As for what he can bring to Minnesota, Payne said: "the mentality that I’m definitely going to play hard every game, practice hard, do anything my coaches and my team need me to do. And offensively be able to stretch the floor and rebound, run the floor and play defense."
Anderson is another projected first-round pick, but his connections to Love are a little closer than Payne. Anderson scored 14.6 points per game last season to go with 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists at UCLA, Love’s alma mater.
Anderson said living up to the success Love, Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday and others have had in the NBA is important to him.
"I want to meet that expectation that those guys have for me coming out of UCLA," Anderson said, later adding: "I’ve seen those guys. They’ve talked to me a lot. Russell Westbrook helps me out a lot through the process and even my freshman and sophomore year of college."