July 22, 2024

Gary Payton II intends to exercise $9.1 million option to remain with Warriors: Sources

Gary Payton II intends to pick up his player option for next season, league sources told The Athletic, keeping him on the Golden State Warriors’ roster for $9.1 million. The deadline for Payton’s decision is Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT.

This is the first domino in a challenging offseason for the Warriors, considering their conflicting objectives. They’re attempting to rearrange their roster well enough to nudge back into contention before Stephen Curry’s late prime fades while also trimming their salary enough to duck the punitive second apron and perhaps the luxury tax altogether after spending nearly $180 million in just tax for a 10th seed a season ago.

It’s a tricky needle to thread. Had Payton declined his option and tested free agency, the financial gymnastics would’ve become a bit easier, generating extra room for either a Klay Thompson contract or another move. There was also discussion about a possible opt-out and extend, bringing Payton back on a longer-term deal at a lower annual number.

But the numbers didn’t make sense for both sides and Payton, 31, isn’t staring at a robust market after another injury-riddled season held him to 44 games. He missed the Warriors’ Play-In Tournament loss in Sacramento with a calf injury.

Payton’s midsized $9.1 million expiring deal could be valuable in salary-matching for potential trades. The Warriors are exploring various avenues to improve as draft and free agency near. So it’s no guarantee he plays out the final season of this contract for Golden State.

But if he does, Payton returns as a defensive ace and slashing finisher who hasn’t reliably been on the court, but has electrified almost every lineup combination when he is available. In his 680 minutes last season, his 5.8 net rating was second-best on the team. He was a cumulative plus-83 for the season.

The Warriors didn’t sign Payton to his current contract. The Portland Trail Blazers did, luring him away after the 2022 title in which Payton played a crucial playoff role on a minimum deal. At the following trade deadline, the Warriors executed a four-team trade that ultimately sent James Wiseman to Detroit to reacquire Payton.

To extract any remaining value out of the failed Wiseman draft pick, they’ll either need Payton to stay on the floor as a necessary point-of-attack defender against elite scorers next season or use his salary in a trade that generates substantial rotation help.

The next salary domino for the Warriors comes on June 24: Only $3 million of Kevon Looney’s $8 million for next season is guaranteed. The Warriors must decide whether to bring Looney back at that number or release him and save that extra $5 million.

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(Photo: Rocky Widner / NBAE via Getty Images)