The Golden State Warriors won their fourth title in eight years, cementing a dynasty after two down seasons attributable to injury. With Klay Thompson returning almost nearly as good as he was when he got injured and Andrew Wiggins showing the world he deserved to be an All-Star, in addition to Stephen Curry getting his first NBA Finals MVP, the team has its core for the subsequent years.
The Dubs have a veteran core in place and a young core that’s waiting to blossom. Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and James Wiseman are expected to get more meaningful minutes within the 2022-23 season, joining Jordan Poole as crucial young members of the roster.
Unfortunately, while Golden State locked up Kevon Looney on a recent contract, several other key players left this summer. Otto Porter Jr. can be a troublesome loss after he played key minutes in the course of the championship run. Nemanja Bjelica went back to Europe. However the player the Warriors will really miss is Gary Payton II, and a few financial concerns got in the way in which of him returning.
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Gary Payton II is a player few fans thought could be a key piece within the Warriors’ title run. After spending a while with the team, the previous Oregon State prospect was waived prior to the beginning of the 2021-22 season. He later revealed he was applying for a job with the Warriors organization as a video coordinator, just to remain near the team.
Shortly after waiving him, the team re-signed Payton and gave him what might have been his final shot within the league. He embraced the chance and excelled with Golden State.
Payton averaged a career-best 7.1 points and three.5 rebounds while also shooting 35.8% from beyond the arc. Although those numbers don’t really stand out, Payton’s biggest impact was on the defensive end, where he notched a team-best 1.4 steals per contest and played rugged defense against opposing stars.
That features within the NBA Finals, where Payton got opportunities against the likes of Boston Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. And in Game 5, Payton had 15 points, five rebounds and three steals in a significant win to present the Warriors the lead within the series.
The defensive-minded player really helped the team along with his hustle and energy:
No stars brilliant enough to make GP back down 😤
Gary Payton II is all about that hustle 💪 pic.twitter.com/xHWi8FCFBQ
— Warriors Nation (@WarriorNationCP) April 1, 2022
Payton was never scared to face big names on big stages. He was all the time ready to present 100%, irrespective of if it was a regular-season game or within the NBA Finals. Due to that, fans won’t all the time see what he does on the stat sheet, but his opponents actually do.
But every fairy tale has an ending. Payton ended up joining the Portland Trail Blazers on a three-year, $28 million deal since the Warriors didn’t need to tackle the additional luxury tax burden from paying up to maintain him.
The Warriors did sign Donte DiVincenzo to assist fill Payton’s role. Although bringing NBA championship experience, DiVincenzo suffered an ankle injury within the 2021 playoffs, limiting him to only 42 games last season. He really struggled with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021-22 before showing some signs of life with the Sacramento Kings.
Golden State also has Kuminga, who can take a number of the responsibility Payton had. Entering his second 12 months within the league, Kuminga still doesn’t have the experience and will still need some beyond regular time learning before applying it on the court.
Overall, the Blazers got Payton on a steal of a contract. At the top of the subsequent season, the Warriors might look back and see if saving some tens of millions was price losing someone who already knew his role and the system. His heart and defense can be missed, and now the Warriors may have to see if his replacements are able to take the subsequent step.