Warriors Bring Back Former Lakers, Wizards PG for Final Roster Spot

Gary Payton II

Getty Gary Payton brings up the ball for the Washington Wizards in a game against the New York Knicks.

The final piece of the roster puzzle has fallen into place for the Golden State Warriors.

The team had held an open competition for the 15th and final roster spot, bringing in a group of guards and wing players for training camp and the preseason. The competition appeared to end with no clear winner, with the Warriors waiving all of the players and preparing to go into the season with the remaining spot open. That changed just hours before tipoff on the season opener.

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Warriors Sign Defensive-Minded Guard

Going into training camp, many insiders considered guard Gary Payton II to be the frontrunner for the final roster spot, so it came as a bit of a surprise when he was among those released just after the team’s final preseason game ended. But his time away from the team didn’t last long, with the Warriors announcing Tuesday that they had re-signed the 28-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards veteran.

Payton had been a late-season addition to the Warriors last season, coming on a 10-day contract and earning another one. Payton appeared in 10 games for the Warriors and scored 2.5 points per game, though his true value comes at the other end of the floor. In making the case for the Warriors to add Payton to their final roster, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area noted that his defensive prowess could be an important addition.

“Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole, Golden State’s projected opening-night starting guards, are fabulous scorers, but each has a defense-second mentality. Each can defend on the ball, but it’s never going to be their first priority, nor should it be,” Poole wrote in endorsing Payton, who was named the G League Defensive Player of the Year last season.

“Somebody has to do the dirty work, embrace the assignment in which the primary goal is to harass the opponent’s most dangerous backcourt scorer. Keep him from penetrating and disrupting the entire defense.”

Payton Ready to Get to Work

As Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle reported, Payton signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal worth $1.9 million. After hovering around the fringes of the NBA — never playing more than 29 games in a season since entering the league in 2016 — Payton said he’s ready for the chance to be a full-time contributor for the Warriors.

“I feel like the work is just beginning to continue this whole season up here and prove that I can play 82 games,” Payton said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “Truly, I wanted to be here, and it worked out perfectly.”

The Athletic’s Anthony Slater reported that Payton will be available to play in Tuesday’s season-opener against the Los Angeles Lakers, though it’s not clear exactly where he will fit into the rotation for Warriors coach Steve Kerr. Minutes at the guard position could be harder to come by since the emergence of Jordan Poole, who last year split time between the G League and Golden State but is now slated to start and will likely remain in the starting lineup until Klay Thompson is able to return from the Achilles tear he suffered last year.

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