Ever since Gary Payton II went undrafted out of Oregon State in 2016, the now 29-year-old bounced around the league and G League mainly as a fringe player, signing 10-day and two-way deals before he found his home with the Warriors this season.
But this free agency period has been different for Payton, who’s penned one heck of an underdog story despite being the namesake of the NBA’s biggest stars in the ’90s.
Payton, no longer at the liberty of NBA franchises being willing to take a chance on him, was able to dictate the market for himself. And now, he’s finalizing a three-year, $28 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Thursday night.
The Warriors viewed Payton as a top target for free agency and one of their best perimeter defenders, but were reportedly unwilling to match the lucrative offer the Trail Blazers put together.
Payton provided a key spark off the bench for the Warriors last season, his first full campaign in the NBA, as his presence alone changed the flow of games. Known for his ball-hounding defense, Payton served as a defensive ace for Golden State.
This payday for Payton is well deserved.
After being cut during training camp, the Warriors decided to bring him back in October to fill the 15th spot on their roster.
Since then, Payton blossomed into one of Golden State’s biggest contributors off the bench and will be a key piece for the Trail Blazers moving forward. He led the Warriors in deflections (180) and steals (96) this season while playing an average of 17.6 minutes per game. In 71 games, he averaged 7.1 points on 61.6% shooting and 3.5 rebounds.
For now, the Warriors will have to find another suitable defensive-minded guard who can fill the void left by Payton.