After his performance in the Las Vegas Summer League, Gary Payton II’s chances of making an NBA roster in October are pretty good. Very good. There is reason to believe the Warriors feel the same way.
Do not be surprised if the 6-foot-2 combo guard is on the roster when the season opens on Oct. 19 against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
Summer League action ended this week and Payton by most measurements was Golden State’s best player. After sitting for Game 1 in Sacramento, he was good the next night in Game 2. An uneven first game in Vegas was followed by superb play in the next two. Payton was held out of the final two games, though he was neither injured nor sore.
The official reason: “rest.”
The unofficial reason is the Warriors had seen enough and didn’t need to see anything more until training camp opens next month.
The Warriors extended Payton’s contract guarantee date to opening night because they want him in their training camp. The 15th and final roster spot is available, and Payton is a strong candidate, probably in competition with Mychal Mulder and maybe Chris Chiozza, a point guard who signed a two-way contract last week.
Mulder’s specialty is shooting, specifically beyond the arc. That’s what initially attracted the Warriors and he shot 39.7 percent from deep last season. His defense needs work.
GPII’s specialty is defense, specifically on the perimeter. He’s good on the ball and also within a team scheme because he feels the game. It’s his shot that needs work.
It’s coming along quite well, which is why Payton’s case for making the Golden State roster is so persuasive.
Payton attacked his Summer League opportunity, shooting 62.5 percent (20-of-32) from the field, including 60.0 percent (6-of-10) beyond the arc. He had 15 assists and nine turnovers -- eight of which came in his first two appearances. He led the Warriors in total rebounds and easily was No. 1 on a per-36-minutes basis.
Summer League stats are considerably cheaper than regular-season stats, but it’s hard to dismiss the fact that a point guard was the team’s most efficient shooter, its fiercest rebounder and as a leader earned the respect of his teammates.
The rebounding illustrates Payton’s court awareness and athleticism. He has a nose for the ball, the quickness to go get it and the leaping ability to dunk in traffic -- as seen in his posterization of 6-foot-9 Raptors big man Dalano Banton last week that sent LeBron James rushing to comment on Twitter.
Having had Payton on the roster via a pair of 10-day contracts last season, the Warriors already knew he was a very good defender. But there were lingering questions about what he could bring to the offense. Could he make opponents respect his shot? Could he penetrate? Does he have the drive-and-kick dimension?
These weaknesses have restricted Payton’s pro career mostly to G League stints. Yet there he was, flashing appreciable improvement across the board.
That Avery Bradley can snag back-to-back contracts worth $57 million and Patrick Beverley can enter next season on an expiring three-year deal with $40 million speaks to the desire in the NBA for defense-first guards who also can keep a defense honest.
Gary Payton II owns similar skills and is willing to play for a lot less, which is why conditions and circumstances indicate there should be a place for him on the Warriors.