How Gary Payton II elevates the Warriors in playoff push

How Gary Payton II elevates the Warriors in playoff push

SAN FRANCISCO — Gary Payton II was back in a Warriors hoodie, walking around the Chase Center weight room after team practice on Friday. But the Warriors and all four of the teams involved in the trade that brought Payton back to Golden State can not speak publicly about the deal until all players pass their physicals.

Even if coach Steve Kerr couldn’t discuss it, the idea of Payton’s return had a smile on his face.

“Yeah, I’m not at liberty to talk about it,” he said on Friday.

Though a swap of James Wiseman for Payton wasn’t the splashiest move at the deadline, Payton’s re-insertion into the fold makes the Warriors exponentially more competitive defensively.

Draymond Green, who didn’t get the memo not to discuss the big trade, shared his thoughts on his post-deadline podcast.

“I’m excited about this move,” Green said. “Number one, we’ve really struggled on the defensive end, and bringing GP back, we all know what GP is capable of on the defensive end…Can plug GP right in, and he knows the system like the back of his hand.”

Golden State has struggled all season maintaining a strong shell defense, defending the perimeter and at the point-of-attack. They still lack size — Kevon Looney, JaMychal Green, Green and perhaps Jonathan Kuminga can play the five — but can return to one of the West’s best defenses with Payton coming off the bench and taking on some of the conference’s best guards such as Devin Booker and Ja Morant.

Last season, the Warriors had a 101.9 points per 100 possessions that ranked in the 98th percentile in the 39 regular season games Payton shared the court with Green. With Green, Payton and Wiggins, the Warriors’ 96.8 points/per ranked in the 100th percentile.

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