Sunday, January 16, 2022

Is Warriors Guard’s upgrade for real or too good to be true?

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Golden State Warriors fans were overjoyed last week when head coach Steve Kerr announced the team would guarantee Gary Payton II’s contract for the remainder of the season. And why shouldn’t they be?

After jumping on the sidelines of the NBA for years, Payton has become an important role for the 30-9 Warriors this season. His defense was always there, but now he’s also knocking down a ridiculous 64.6% of his shot attempts and 41.8% from depth.

With 11.8 he has the third best net rating in a team full of plus / minus heroes.

While he clearly had a hugely positive impact on the pitch – and wowing fans and teammates alike with highlight reel stealing and hammer dunks – there’s one serious question some would say should be asked about the late-blooming breakout star will.

Specifically – is this really real or is it just a combination of a small play and Kerr who works out an ideal role for him?

This is exactly what Seth Partnow of The Athletic explored in his latest article, which also broke down the on-court improvement this season by Bulls star DeMar DeRozan and Cavs Big Man Jarrett Allen.

As for Payton, Partnow pointed out that the 29-year-old has never made an NBA opening line-up or played on a team for an entire season. And given its history, as well as its physical and statistical profiles, that’s actually not surprising.

Payton is built like an old school point guard. However, he plays more like a defensive wing and an edge runner than a ground general. As such, he didn’t feel like the right person at any of the guards.

Wrote Partnow:

In his first four seasons before joining the Warriors, Payton was a 41.4% shooter who made only 25.6% of his three-point attempts. And while he’s dipping everything in sight at the moment, during that time he was a 50/50 guy within a meter of the tire, which is understandable given his lack of size.

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While it is clear that Payton has made significant strides as a marksman since arriving in the Bay Area, Partnow believes Kerr could deserve as much credit as his player for what we are seeing of him right now:

The question that needs to be asked here is whether it even matters whether Payton’s accomplishment this season is more his work or a product of his current environment. In the end, if he’s helping Golden State win and what he’s doing is sustainable, then the answer should be no.

And while a sample of 38 games isn’t enough to predict what will happen in Payton’s career, it’s probably more than enough to gauge what he can bring to the table this season. Whether or not what he does becomes real is up to the person asking the question.

Payton and the Warriors will still go about their business of pursuing a championship.


Payton and the Warriors will still go about their business of pursuing a championship.

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