Warriors Rumors: Lakers Could Look to Snag Dubs’ Defensive Specialist

Gary Payton II

Getty Gary Payton II reacts to a play in a Golden State Warriors game.

The Golden State Warriors hit the jackpot after gambling on giving a full-time roster spot to journeyman guard Gary Payton II, but now could be victims of their own success this offseason.

Prior to the last offseason, Payton had spent all of his six-year professional career bouncing between the NBA and the G League, working mostly on 10-day contracts. The Warriors saw value in Payton, who earned the 15th roster spot in Golden State and eventually found his way into Steve Kerr’s regular rotation.

But with Payton now headed to free agency and the chance of scoring the biggest payday of his career, the Warriors could lose out to a Pacific Division rival.

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Payton in High Demand

After struggling just to find a spot on an NBA roster for the last six years, Payton now finds himself in the driver’s seat as he heads to free agency, the San Francisco Chronicle’s C.J. Holmes noted. The 29-year-old guard told reporters that he and his agent are seeking a multi-year deal and that he’s excited to finally dictate his NBA future.

“I get to choose this time I think, so it’s going to be interesting,” he said. “Looking forward to it.”

The Athletic’s Jovan Buha suggested that the Los Angeles Lakers could be a landing spot, as the team is in need of the kind of perimeter defense that fueled the Warriors to a title run. The Lakers would be looking to sign at least two defensive-minded wings and will likely use their taxpayer mid-level exception for one and a veteran minimum contract for another, Buha wrote.

“The Lakers currently don’t have many players capable of defending at the game’s highest levels,” Buha wrote. “Davis and James are proven, obviously, but they carry a massive offensive load, have to manage their physical wear and tear, and will have to protect the paint. Reaves and Johnson showed the potential to be those types of defenders, but they haven’t done it in the postseason yet.”

Warriors Have Decisions to Make

The Warriors will have some tough decisions to make, with a number of other key players headed to free agency and some young ones headed to a payday.

After a breakout season where he averaged 18.5 points per game, guard Jordan Poole is eligible for a rookie-scale extension. Teammate Andrew Wiggins believes that Poole has earned it.

“He definitely deserves one,” Wiggins said, via Madeline Kenney of the Mercury News. “He makes his teammates better, he’s young and he can go out there on the court and dominate. We’ve seen it this playoffs and throughout the year, the sky’s the limit for him, he’s only going to get better, he deserves everything.”

But the Warriors also value Payton and will try to bring him back next season. One Western Conference executive told Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney that after giving Poole a contract extension, re-signing Payton appears to be the top offseason priority for Golden State. The executive noted that the Warriors will have a cap on what they can pay, however, and likely won’t be able to go above the mid-level exception.

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