Raptors blew it by not retaining G League star Gary Payton II

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 14: Gary Payton II #0 of the Golden State Warriors (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 14: Gary Payton II #0 of the Golden State Warriors (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors have leaned on Raptors 905 to help them develop some quality bench talent over the years. Despite a commitment to that mission statement, Toronto has made a peculiar habit of letting teams sign away some of their best developmental gems, including Gary Payton II.

The son of the Hall of Fame SuperSonics legend, Payton has bounced around between the back end of NBA benches and the G League for large chunks of his career. After putting up some tremendous numbers on both sides of the ball, an NBA team finally gave Payton the roster spot he was looking for.

The Golden State Warriors signed Payton to a 10-day contract last season and retained him for 2021-22. While Steph Curry and the resurgence of Draymond Green are two of the main factors in Golden State’s climb back to the top, Payton has established himself as a valuable rotation piece.

Toronto had the chance to promote him to the roster in some form or fashion, but they let that chance melt away. While the Raptors search for bench contributions to aid their struggling unit, Payton has put together his best season yet as Steph Curry’s backup in San Francisco.

The Toronto Raptors should’ve signed Gary Payton II.

The man affectionately known as “The Mitten” in reference to him being the son of “The Glove” has averaged 7.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game. Payton is making an absurd 68% of his shots including an insane 83% from inside the ard and 40% from 3-point range.

With Malachi Flynn not developing as the team expected and Dalano Banton not enough to singlehandedly power the bench, Payton’s feisty defense and efficiency would be welcomed in Toronto.

In 13 G League games last year, Payton averaged 10.8 points and 2.5 steals per game on his way to winning G League Defensive Player of the Year. That should’ve been a sign that he’s worthy of a spot in Toronto.

This is not the first time in recent history that Toronto let someone leave their program like this. Last year, they chose to give Henry Ellenson a shot in the NBA over Alize Johnson. In 2021-22, Ellenson is playing overseas while Johnson parlayed a solid stint in Brooklyn into a contract with the Bulls.

Payton not only made the Warriors’ final roster, but he did so while carving out a rotation role. It appears as though his solid end to the 2019-20 season in Washington was no fluke, as he’s making Toronto pay for not signing him.

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