Gary Payton II Signs With the Portland Trail Blazers

Gary Payton II
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Gary Payton II signed with the Portland Trail Blazers late on the first night of free agency. The two sides agreed to a three-year contract worth $28 million, or $9.3 million per season. This contract keeps him in Rip City through the 2024-25 season.

Gary Payton II Signs With the Portland Trail Blazers

Payton defined the term “journeyman” before ending the season with Golden State in 2021 and signed with the Warriors the subsequent offseason. The son of Gary Payton (shocking!) went undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft and caught on with the Houston organization. He played for their affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, in what was then called the D League. Payton would eventually make his fleeting NBA debut for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2017. 

He spent some time with NBA teams on contracts over the next three years but mainly spent time in the G League. Over Payton’s six-year career, stints playing with the Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Wizards, and finally the Golden State Warriors were paired with stretches with the Wisconsin Herd, South Bay Lakers, and the Vipers a second time. Payton has put up 5.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game for his career. He seemed to solidify his spot in the NBA last season. Payton averaged 7.1 points and 3.5 for the Golden State Warriors as a key part of their championship run. 

Everything about Payton is an anomaly: he’s the son of an NBA legend who got his bounce from his mom. Payton is a 6’3” guard who is most useful setting screens and skying for lobs on offense. He can pick up an All-Star point guard full court on defense to force him to pass the ball, and just as easily steal the ball by stalking passing lanes as a help defender. Payton always had the skills to be a plus NBA player, and Golden State’s environment allowed him to thrive.

What this Means for the Future

Most importantly for Payton, this means an opportunity to receive life-changing money. He’s spent years toiling on two-ways, non-guarantees, partial guarantees, and ten-days; that revolving door of NBA contracts is over. Payton gets to finally settle in a home and spend training camp with a team that intends to keep him the entire season. This wasn’t guaranteed for him as recently as May 3rd when Dillon Brooks tackled him during a layup attempt and broke his elbow. Payton’s return in Game Two of the NBA Finals gave both the Warriors and his free agency prospects a boost.

Payton turns 30 in December but has played relatively little NBA basketball for his age. One hopes this translates to the preservation of his extraordinary athleticism. The Trail Blazers should also feel comfortable that he will remain productive during the length of this contract. Payton suffered minor injuries throughout last season that could be related to his physical style of play, and he may need to remain around 20-25 minutes per game next year. 

His defense will remain elite, but his three-point shooting is more questionable. He shot just under 36% last season but shot 28.3% in 2019-20 over 29 games, and 23% in 2017-18 over 23 games. Teams ignored him at the three-point line last season until he proved he could make a three, usually from the corners. A dip in his percentage could make him a bigger threat to his team’s offense than the opponent’s.