The Portland Trail Blazers are signing former Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II to a three-year, $28 million deal, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. Payton's payday is well earned after he was one of the breakout players of the 2021-22 season. After spending the bulk of his career on 10-day contracts and in the G-League, he finally managed to carve out a steady role for himself with the Warriors as a defensive stopper and unconventional pick-and-roll threat. He helped lead Golden State to a championship, and now, he'll take his talents to the Pacific Northwest.
The fit, on paper, is quite good. Payton is obviously familiar with that region of the country as his father, Gary Payton, was once a star for the Seattle Supersonics. Both Paytons played collegiately at Oregon State and now the younger Payton will return to Oregon to join a Blazers team trying to build a contender around Damian Lillard.
What Lillard's teams have largely lacked has been defense. For years they've ranked near the bottom of the league on that end of the floor, but with Payton joining fellow newcomer Jerami Grant and midseason addition Josh Hart, the Blazers have more talent on that end of the floor than ever.
Meanwhile, Golden State just lost its best perimeter defender. The Warriors used to rely on Klay Thompson to chase the best opposing scorer on the other team around the floor, but after multiple serious injuries, he lacks the lateral quickness to stay with most top guards at this stage of his career. Now, the Warriors will have to either find a replacement or hope one of their younger players can step into that role.
The Warriors can still use the taxpayer mid-level exception to try to sign another defender, but they already had the highest payroll in NBA history last season. They will pay the repeater tax again this season, and will eventually have to draw the line somewhere financially. It seems as though $9 million per year for Payton was too rich for their blood, so they'll now have to see him play for their conference rival in Portland.