The 2016 NBA draft is light years away and the Golden State Warriors are the best team in the league. Steve Kerr has returned to assume master and commander; right on time as the tribe rests up and devises a plan over the weekend for perhaps their biggest test yet: the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.
However, let's not forget that our chiefest scout and keenest basketball mind will not be with us forever. Jerry West has grown to legendary proportions as "Mr. Clutch" on the court, but also as the sorcerous entity who turns franchises into a dynasties with the wave of his wand - in the Warriors case, 5 seasons.
A pick at #30 for West, in a way, is like a pick at #15 for most GMs and scouts. From Curry to Ezeli, this team has a certain pride of ownership with the prospects it has developed into quality players and men. Incidentally, two of those prospects (Curry, Thompson) were fathered by NBA players.
Gary Payton II bares the name of arguably the greatest talent to ever come out of Oakland. According to events so far, the apple has not fallen far from the tree. Gary Payton Jr. is possibly the best rebounding guard in college basketball. Defensively, he's been compared to Boston Celtic Avery Bradley, and he has a fearlessness driving to the rim. Here is an in depth look at his game against number 3 ranked Kansas.
"I am very excited for little Gary to be coming here, and I think he's a great basketball player. I'm going to be honest with you guys: about 4 years ago, I didn't think my son was a very good basketball player. He proved me wrong. I told my son he wasn't good - He proved me wrong."
- Gary Payton Sr. on his son coming to play for OSU
Payton II has been rebounding at an alarming rate:
Game 1: 17 rebs Game 2: 6 rebs Game 3: 11 rebs Game 4: 5 rebs Game 5: 7 rebs Game 6: 11 rebs Game 7: 9 rebs Game 8: 8 rebs Game 9: 11 rebs Game 10: 8 rebs Game 11: 7 rebs Game 14: Win vs. Cal-11 rebs
"Payton has a tremendous physical profile for a point guard, standing 6-3, with an extremely long wingspan, (6'7) a strong frame, big hands, and terrific athletic ability. He ranked #1 among all point guard prospects in rebounds and blocks on a per-40 minute basis, as well as #2 overall in steals. Only a dozen players in the last 15+ years have posted those type of numbers in the college ranks according to our extensive historical database, including the likes of Andre Iguodala, Dwayne Wade, Grant Hill, Clyde Drexler, Bonzi Wells and Ron Harper.
Payton's calling card as a NBA prospect indeed revolves around his defensive prowess. His size and length allows him to defend any of the three backcourt positions at the college level, giving his coach tremendous flexibility in terms of lineups and strategies defending the pick and roll, pressing, and playing man or zone. His instincts in the passing lanes and as a rebounder help get his team countless extra possessions every game.
He contests shots impressively on the perimeter, being able to sag off his man and give himself an extra cushion to not get neat off the dribble, but still get a hand up on jumpers with his tremendous length. He does a great job of staying in front for that reason, even if his fundamentals can still improve on this end of the floor.
He played a huge part in Oregon State's emergence as one of the best defensive teams in college basketball last season, finishing 16th overall in that category according to KenPom, up from 215th the season before, and won Pac-12 defensive player of the year honors for his efforts."
Why he would fit in with the Warriors, theoretically:
A) Versatility - With Leandro entering his declining years, the Warriors will look to make Ian Clark the backup 2/1 guard, developing him behind Shaun Livingston. While Clark is proving to be a versatile offensive player, Payton complements Ian with his own hawking, defensive style. The length of GP II allows him to defend both guard positions, and with Livingston at 6'7", the Warriors could easily man a lineup that sees all three guards playing at the same time if they wanted. Point being, with all three players being interchangeable, but extremely different, Golden State could take its time developing Clark and Payton, while adding unique depth and keeping Livingston as their primary backup. Gary Payton Jr. could develop into a stat stuffer. Whether it's blocking shots one game, or logging 3 steals another, the base of Payton's talent boasts a build that enables him to effect the game in so many different ways.
B) Culture - Payton would buy into the defensive culture here, and then some. The little glove was raised to focus his resources on the defensive end. His game speaks for that, and few college guards rival his prowess on that end. That's the sort of young depth the Warriors need. That's the kind of defensive versatility and energy they invite. A second unit consisting of Igoudala, Ezeli, and a speedy ballhawk who gets in the passing lanes would induce penalties and turnovers for the opposition.
C) Maturity - He's an older rookie at 23-years-old. This is good for the Warriors, not only because it hurts his draft stock and causes a slip (similar to Festus Ezeli), but he's a mature rookie who has grown up around the NBA lifestyle. This goes with the idea of being a "low-risk" prospect - a player who won't look to stir the pot. Understanding what it takes to succeed in the NBA takes awhile for most young players. Being an older rookie, he's still ahead of the game in that department given who his father is, and how it's effected his preparation thus far. He's improved immensely over the past 2 years, and has seemingly come from out of nowhere.
D) Speed - He has elite athleticism. While the Warriors beat you with skill, they couldn't be considered very athletic in the guard department. Klay, Stephen, Ian, and Livingston, are not necessarily known for their end-to-end speed, respectively. Payton has a different sort of athleticism that allows him to push the ball and recover defensively on the fast break. Complementary.
E) Roots - It would be good to see the son of Gary Payton donning a blue and gold uni and building effectively with the team. This front office is smart, but also a touch sentimental. For fans who were around to see Gary senior come into the town and chew us up all game, it would be special to have his son, a true Bay Area product, be a Warrior.