NBA Champion Listed as Potential Celtics Target in Free Agency

Gary Payton II, Boston Celtics

Getty Gary Payton II, Boston Celtics

In the NBA life comes at you fast. One minute, you’re competing for the championship, and the next, you’re planning for the off-season, looking for solutions to some of the issues that ailed you throughout the previous season.

The Boston Celtics are now well-and-truly in off-season mode, and as a result, rumors are starting to surface regarding potential acquisitions once the free-agency period opens on June 30.

According to Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype, one player Boston could be interested in acquiring is the Golden State Warriors Gary Payton II, who was part of the team that defeated the Celtics in six games to raise the Larry O’Brien trophy on June 16.

“Bruce Brown and Gary Payton II could be natural targets for the Celtics with the taxpayer MLE given their prioritization of defensive-minded players, even if they don’t quite bring good three-point shooting,” Gozlan wrote in a June 17 off-season primer.

Payton is coming off the back of a break-out season for the Warriors, where he played a career-high 71 games, earning himself the best statline of his young career to date.

Is Payton II a Good Fit

Payton is a versatile guard who can also slide up to the small forward position if needed, his explosiveness around the rim also makes him a good small-ball pick-and-roll man, as he can vertically space the court as he rolls to the rim.

On the defensive end, Payton is intense, switchable, and can operate as an undersized rim protector due to his verticality and ability to change direction on a dime. Ime Udoka likes his players to be two-way threats who take pride on the defensive side of the floor, and as the Celtics saw first hand,  every member of that Warriors rotation is a robust defender, so Payton II should fit in well in that regard.

On the offensive side, Payton II is an average three-point shooter, converting 35.8% of his 1.7 attempts last season, as he prefers to get his work done as a slasher, pressuring the rim and attacking big-men head-on. The Celtics like their smaller guards to be good screeners, as to force offensive mismatches on the perimeter, and Payton II has proven adept in this area – meaning he would likely be a good all-around fit.

Would Payton II be Interested?

Let’s be clear here: if the Warriors extend an offer sheet, Payton II is most likely to remain in his current situation. After all, the Warriors gave him his first real opportunity, and he won a championship along the way, so why would you leave such a successful situation if you had the choice to stay?

However, should the Warriors want to look elsewhere, Boston is arguably the next best thing, as they’re coming off the back of an NBA Finals run, are young, talented, and switchable across the court.

Payton II has proven himself as a legitimate rotational piece on a contending team, and will likely be fielding offers from around the NBA, but considering Boston’s recent post-season success, and their current upward trajectory, they’re perfectly situated to pounce for the young guard’s signature if his time in San Francisco has run its course.

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