The Golden State Warriors came under criticism after failing to keep free agent Gary Payton II, and now the team’s owner is offering some insight into the decision.
Before he found a home with the Warriors last year, Payton had bounced around the NBA for his first six seasons, spending significant stretches in the G League and playing no more than 29 games in the NBA for any season. After turning in some impressive performances in Warriors training camp and during a 10-day contract the previous season, Payton started at the end of the rotation but eventually found his way into a key role with the team as a defensive stopper and scoring threat off the bench.
But the Warriors were unable to bring back Payton, who fetched a $29 million deal from the Portland Trail Blazers. As Golden State owner Joe Lacob explained, it was a price too high for the Warriors.
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Lacob Speaks Out
Heading into free agency, many believed that the Warriors would do everything possible to keep Payton. A Western Conference executive told Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney that after giving a new contract extension to breakout star Jordan Poole, a new contract for Payton was the team’s top priority.
But once he hit free agency and started talking to other teams, Payton’s price tag rose too high for the Warriors to match, Lacob told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami.
“No surprise to us that if these guys got … like Gary Payton had a good year and if he got a big offer, it was going to be very unlikely we were going to re-sign him, no matter how much we love him,” Lacob told Kawakami. “And we did like him a lot. He got a much bigger offer, in fact, than we thought he would get. Way beyond. And I’m not saying he’s not worth it or is worth it. But it is a lot. And it’s not something we really could entertain doing.”
The Warriors lost a number of other members of the rotation, including guard Damion Lee. Their frontcourt depth also took a hit after big man Otto Porter Jr. signed with the Toronto Raptors and Nemanja Bjelica chose to return to his previous team in Turkey.
Though it would be difficult to replace what Payton brought on the defensive side, the Warriors were able to bring in a wing with a similar skill set and more size, Donte DiVincenzo. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Warriors gave the 25-year-old a two-year, $9.3 million deal.
Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale gave the move a grade of A+, noting that the Warriors were able to find a good talent at a low price due to the ankle injury DiVincenzo suffered last year. DiVincenzo also brings a more well-rounded game than Payton, Favale noted.
“Peak DiVincenzo can shape-shift depending on the lineup,” he wrote. “He will spearhead fast breaks after grabbing defensive rebounds, dart in for passes from the corners and skedaddle around longer defenders when attacking the basket. Milwaukee even used to buy spot minutes with him at point guard. He’s best served playing off others, but he has more pick-and-roll orchestration ingrained into his game than GP2.”