This time last year, Gary Payton II was fighting for a permanent spot on the Golden State Warriors roster as a two-way player. This year, he scored 15 points in a close-out game against the Denver Nuggets, becoming an X-factor for a contending Warriors squad.
It was always known that Payton II was a great defender. After all, he is the son of hall of fame point guard, Gary Payton. His father was a career 16.3 point per game scorer while shooting a respectable 46.6% from the field. His son Gary Payton II didn’t inherit his father’s scoring ability, unfortunately, but he did inherit his defense.
Payton II was a thief on the defensive end this season as he averaged 1.4 steals a game in just 17.6 minutes a game. His per 36 steal rate is at 2.8, which is on par with Payton Sr.’s career-high in steals at 2.9. Payton II also held his opponents to shooting 43.6% from the field.
To put that into perspective, the Defensive Player of the Year winner, Marcus Smart, a guard for the Boston Celtics held opponents to 45% from the field. When you take into account that these guys were often defending some of the best offensive players, no matter the size difference, it is impressive to hold them to just 45% from the field.
So why did it take so long for Payton II to find a home if he is this elite defender? Offensively he leaves a lot to be desired.
As I stated earlier, Payton II did not inherit his father’s offensive skill set. He is actually pretty different from his father in terms of their play styles. His father was a below-the-rim scorer with a decent jump shot and a fantastic playmaker. Payton II is a high-flying dunker that can occasionally make the open three.
Payton II may not have the offensive repertoire that his father possessed, but that doesn’t make him any less valuable. He is the perfect fit within this Warriors squad. The Warriors are one of the best passing teams in the NBA, filled with the greatest spacers in the NBA with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, even feel free to add Jordan Poole to that mix. Along with great spacers, you have the willing passers in Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, and Andre Iguodala. Add that all together, and you get a free-flowing offense with a ton of space for Payton II to operate within.
Lastly, with so much attention being given to Klay, Steph, and Poole, running the pick and roll with Payton II is a brilliant play.
The defense will almost always stick with Steph and Poole because allowing them to get an open look or a mismatch is bad basketball. Leaving Payton II free to roam around the rim. The Warriors used this to their advantage against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, which helped end the series, as well as get Payton II the recognition he truly deserves.
Gary Payton II sets the barometer for the Warriors. He helps set the tone for the defensive end, and he also helps get the Warriors some easy looks on the offensive end. He truly is an X-Factor to their success down the line as the Warriors get deeper into the playoffs.