While former Toronto Raptors G League player Oshae Brissett has had his success, Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II may be the best player that was in the ranks of Raptors 905 and slipped away to another team. Luckily, the Raptors will have a chance to rectify that mistake.
Payton was G League Defensive Player of the Year in 905’s truncated season, but the Raptors chose to bring up Freddie Gillespie from Memphis’ developmental ranks instead of signing Payton. While Gillespie immediately returned to the G League, Payton has become a valuable cog on a title contender.
Payton has averaged 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as one of the first guys off the bench for Golden State this season. Due to both the style of play instilled in him by his father and the values Raptors 905 preaches from a developmental point of view, Payton has been excellent on defense.
An unrestricted free agent after this season, the Raptors have a chance to make up for one of their few mistakes over the last few years. Payton resigning could give Toronto a solid bench presence and the backup to Fred VanVleet that they have been crying out for.
Gary Payton II could be a nice backup for the Toronto Raptors.
Despite his frame, Payton has moved all around the floor for Golden State, playing in the post and on the perimeter. Think of how the Nets use Bruce Brown. As a result, Payton has been able to vacillate between different defensive responsibilities while maintaining his solid finishing skills. He’s a 99th percentile points per shot attempt scorer.
Payton doesn’t have a reputation as a great shooter, but making 36% of his shots from deep on just under two attempts per game shows that there is room for improvement. Payton is playing 17.6 minutes per game with Golden State, but that number could be bumped up if Toronto offers him an elevated role.
As with most players that have that one breakout season, Masai Ujiri will need to figure out if Payton’s production is the byproduct of a positive upward trend or the result of one exceptional career year. If they are sold on his potential, the Raptor giving him an eight-figure contract shouldn’t be ruled out.
Toronto has already got an up-close look at Payton and what he brings to the table. While they missed a chance to bring him into the fold earlier, his standout finishing inside and tremendous defense should show the rest of the league that he can be a valued part of the bench for a contender.