When the Toronto Raptors released former lottery pick Cameron Payne before the 2019 season, it looked like his NBA journey was coming to a close, as he signed with the Shanxi Loongs in China shortly thereafter. Against all odds, he could end up back in Toronto during this Raptors free agency period, as he has been killing it with the Phoenix Suns.
After impressing in the bubble, Payne has stepped on the accelerator with the Suns this year, scoring 8.4 points per game as one of Phoenix’s top reserves in their rise to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Payne will hit free agency this summer, meaning that his sudden rise in quality could not have come at a better time. Several teams in need of a new face in the backcourt, Raptors included, should be all over him.
After averaging 13.0 points per game and 4.5 assists per game in the first four games of Phoenix’s series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Bleacher Report tapped Payne as a player that could really start to take the next step with a team like Toronto. B/R hinted that the Los Angeles Clippers could offer the Raptors some competition for his services.
Can Cameron Payne keep improving with the Toronto Raptors?
With the future of Kyle Lowry still very much in limbo, the Raptors will need to do their due diligence on some successors in both the short and long term, should he leave. Signing Payne to a hefty long-term deal after one solid season would be foolish, but he is a quality short-term stopgap that Toronto can use to claw back into the postseason picture.
Payne’s shooting splits of 48% from the field, 44% from 3-point range, and 89% from the free-throw line are indicative of someone who has turned a corner. Struggling for shots in Phoenix next to Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton, Nick Nurse might give him a longer leash in Toronto.
Despite the fact Payne could blossom in Toronto, the presence of Malachi Flynn could make it tough for the two to coexist. In the eyes of many, myself included, Flynn did show enough in the last few weeks of the season to warrant a shot as the starting point guard with Fred VanVleet at the 2-guard spot or as the backup point guard with VanVleet starting.
However, if the Raptors remain unsold on that undersized duo as their preferred post-Lowry loadout, the signing of Payne could materialize.
Payne has been passed around the league for most of his career, but he’s finally starting to show signs of a player that was worthy of a lottery selection. With the Raptors likely needed some guard reinforcements, Payne could be a solid addition if they don’t feel Flynn is ready for such an enhanced role next year.