MSU basketball: Payne or Harris better NBA prospect?

According to the experts, Adreian Payne and Gary Harris will both come off the board in the first round of this years NBA Draft. However, there isn’t complete agreement on who will be taken first out of the two Spartan graduates

Gary Harris' shooting touch makes him an intriguing NBA prospect

Gary Harris’ shooting touch makes him an intriguing NBA prospect

Almost every expert mock draft had Gary Harris being selected before Adreian Payne until the last month or so. In that time it was released that Payne played through mono the last three months of the season and Harris measured in at just 6-foot-2 ½ at the NBA Combine. Since then, most draft projections have them both being taken somewhere in the 12-17 range.

The order in which they are selected may be a slight indication as to which will become the better NBA player, but it’s far from an exact science. To figure that out, you have to examine their bodies of work closely.


Gary Harris came to Michigan State as a heralded recruit and lived up to the billing. He averaged just under 13 points per game as a freshman and shot 41 percent from beyond the arc. Harris’ shooting numbers dipped in his sophomore season, but he still managed to average 16.7 points per game. More importantly, he developed into a lockdown wing defender who would consistently take the opponent’s best player out of the game.

In Harris’ second season he also started being more aggressive taking the ball to the rim as opposed to settling for jump shots. He averaged over four free throw attempts per game last year as opposed to just 2.9 per game his freshman year. This is important to NBA scouts because a legitimate NBA shooting guard has to be able to attack off the dribble if he wants to keep defenders honest.

Harris doesn’t have the ideal height for an NBA shooting guard, but he definitely benefitted greatly from staying a second year at Michigan State and will be a solid NBA shooting guard.


As for Adreian Payne, he was extremely raw when he arrived in East Lansing as a freshman and now he is considered one of the more polished big men in the draft.

What separates Payne from other players his size is his shooting touch. The ball comes out of his hands rotating perfectly on every shot, no matter where he is on the floor. This past season he started using that touch from behind the three-point line and had all kinds of success. Payne shot 42.3 percent from deep last year, which is crucial when it comes to his NBA Draft stock because in today’s NBA, every team is looking for a “stretch four” who can play inside as well as knock down three-pointers.


Payne has a chance to be a special player in the NBA if he continues to improve the way he did at Michigan State. Harris is the safer pick of the two because he will probably never be a superstar in the league but his defense and shooting make it unlikely he’ll be a bust.

I believe Adreian Payne is the better NBA prospect because of his freakish athletic ability and constant desire to improve. Both players will have good NBA careers, but the team that chooses Adreian Payne might find themselves with the league’s next superstar in a few years.