Raptors 905 guard and reigning NBA G League Defensive Player of the Year, Gary Payton II, is off to the NBA after signing a 10-day contract with the Golden State Warriors.
Payton II now has the opportunity to play behind superstar point guard, Steph Curry, and aid the Warriors in their fight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The 2.54 steals per game that Payton II recorded placed him first in the G League this season and second all-time in league history. He racked up seven steals in a game twice, which tied the franchise record for total steals in a game. Payton II was the third player in 905 history to win the top defensive award in the G League behind Edy Tavares (2017) and Canadian Chris Boucher (2019). His reliable and elite defence also earned him the honour of the 2021 NBA G League All-Defensive Team.
In the Orlando G League bubble this season, Payton II averaged 10.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 13 games with the 905. He was an instrumental part of a 905 team that finished the regular season in first place with a 12-3 record. It certainly felt like Payton II rediscovered the basketball form that got him into the NBA and the belief that he deserves another shot to compete at the highest level.
Payton II has played in 61 career NBA games over four seasons, most recently with the Washington Wizards in 2019-20. Although the 28 year old is labelled by many as a journeyman, he has shown he can compete with the NBA’s best in the past. In his first three games on a 10-day contract signed in December of 2019, Payton II put up six steals twice and scored in the double digits in all three games, including 15 against the Knicks.
After the Warriors traded Brad Wanamaker and Marquese Chriss at the trade deadline, they had to sign a player to satisfy the NBA roster requirements. The Warriors fast paced style of play will be familiar for Payton II, who saw a similar system under 905 head coach Patrick Mutombo this past season. The strong perimeter defence of Payton II should also benefit a Warriors team that surrenders a large number of three pointers per game.
The defensive accolades of Payton II also include a nod for the 2019 NBA G League All-Defensive First Team award and the the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year twice. He certainly has adapted a similar playing style to his father, Gary Payton, who was an extraordinary defensive player in the NBA for 13 seasons.
If Payton II can find success with the Warriors during the six games he is eligible to play in, there is a strong chance the Warriors will re-sign him. Payton II deserves a lot of credit for fighting his way back to the NBA and will bring the intensity and hunger the Warriors can only benefit from in their playoff quest.
Written by Connor Lamont