The Golden State Warriors were unable to retain free agent Gary Payton II as planned, with the 29-year-old guard bolting for a nice deal with the Portland Trailblazers.
Payton is coming off a breakout season with the Warriors where he emerged as a key piece of the rotation, starring in his role. He averaged a career-best 7.1 points per game to go with 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 17.6 minutes played. He shot 61.6 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from 3-point range and proved to be a top-notch perimeter defender.
While the Warriors tried to keep him on board, the franchise simply did not want to match the money the Blazers threw at Payton. He signed a three-year deal worth $28 million, per Sham Charania of The Athletic, who first reported the deal.
Shortly after the deal was reported, Montre Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area tweeted that there was a slim chance that the Warriors could retain Payton.
“Source close to Gary Payton II: Warriors still have slim chance to retain GP2 but it appears they’ve hit their limit (TPMLE), which doesn’t compete with offer from Trail Blazers,” Poole tweeted. “He has history in Oregon and would be very comfortable in PDX.”
His father, Gary Payton, spoke to Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney in April, acknowledging the situation his son was in.
“I think he wants to stay with the Golden State Warriors and I think the Warriors want to stay with him. But, as you understand, this is a business,” Payton said. “They’re capped up. They gotta pay Draymond [Green], they gotta pay [Stephen] Curry, they gotta pay Klay [Thompson], now they’re going to give [Jordan] Poole a lot of money. So I don’t know how that’s going to work out.”
Warriors Trying to Keep Roster Intact as Much as Possible
The Warriors are already deep in the luxury tax and are going to have to make at least a couple tough decisions this offseason. Just prior to the report of Payton’s new deal, The Athletic reported the sides were “apart” in negotiations.
“Facing a record tax bill multiplying each additional dollar spent by nearly seven, the Warriors entered free agency intent on avoiding any overpay that the market doesn’t demand,” Anthony Slater and Sam Amick reported. “They want to bring both [Kevon] Looney and Payton back. Both players prefer a reunion with the defending champions, if the price is right. That’s where the current separation exists.”
The Warriors have been clear that they’re willing to spend an exorbitant about to retain a championship roster. However, general manager Bob Myers knows there’s a limit — albeit a high one — to what owner Joe Lacob is willing to spend.
“We’ll look and see what we can do and I’ll ask Joe what he would authorize, but there is a limit. It’s not limitless,” Myers said. “I would like it to be limitless, but trust me, it’s not. You’ve got to have some constraints on a salary.”
Big Man Kevon Looney is a Priority for Warriors
With Payton out of the picture, the Warriors’ sights will turn to big man Kevon Looney, who is coming off his best and most consistent year as a pro, averaging 6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, filling a key role for the Warriors. He came up big in the postseason, starting 13 games. His masterpiece was a career-high 21 points to go with 12 rebounds during the Western Conference Finals, even receiving MVP chants from the Chase Center crowd.
Head coach Stever Kerr had no problem heaping praise on Looney after winning the title.
“Loon, what more do we need to say about Loon?” Kerr said on June 22. “He’s a championship center, modern-day defender, switch defender, which is what it takes in the playoffs. As the 30th pick in the draft seven years ago, the way he’s developed, the way he’s worked, the way he has become such a big part of our internal leadership and our fabric, he’s a huge component to our success.”
But just as the Payton situation showed, if another team is willing to go over market value for Looney’s services, it could cause some trouble for the Warriors.