Draymond Green knows what makes former Warrior Gary Payton II irreplaceable

Draymond knows what makes the former GP2 Warrior irreplaceable who originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green’s love for Gary Payton II runs deep. He pushed for Payton to receive a second 10-day deal with the Warriors at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season, was all in agreement that he get the last Warriors roster spot before last season, and was part of a long list of people within the franchise who wanted Payton to return in the offseason after Golden State’s last championship.

When Payton returned to the Chase Center on December 30 to receive his ring before the Warriors’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers, Green had the honor of giving it to his former teammate in center field with Dub Nation standing.

“Love you bro, show the young champ some love,” Green said at the end of his pregame speech after handing him his new hardware.

But Payton was wearing a Jordan Jimenez hoodie and a San Francisco Giants hat, not a Blazers jersey. He was still recovering from offseason abdominal surgery and had yet to make his debut for his new team, one with which he signed a three-year contract worth more than $26 million, a number the Warriors would not match.

That time has passed now. Payton has played 14 games for Portland and Wednesday will mark the first time for him.

This time, her outfit won’t look anything like the Bay Area. Payton will be wearing a sweatband, along with a sweatband on his right wrist. He will also wear a Blazers No. 00 jersey, a sight that won’t sit well with Green and the rest of the Warriors.

“I mean, I’m really looking forward to playing against him,” Green told NBC Sports Bay Area following the Warriors’ win against the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday night at the Chase Center. “I know what he’s capable of on the pitch and the things he brings to the team, so I can’t really say I’m looking forward to it.

“But whenever you see your brothers in this league, it’s always an honor. It’s a privilege for each of us to be in this league, so whenever you get the chance to come together and break bread or compete against each other It’s always an honor and you can never take it for granted.”

There is no doubt that Draymond misses Payton on the court. The Warriors had the best defense in basketball a season ago with GP2 being an anchor for that unit and a nightmare for opponents. With him gone, Golden State’s defense has been below average at best this season.

It’s what Payton brought to the locker room, courtside and outfield that Green still lacks today. The two spent two years together as teammates and wished the tenure could have been longer. The spirit of him is what Draymond first mentioned. “Only him!” he said as he gathered his thoughts. Payton’s humor was also not ignored by Green.

Though he growls and scratches his head after a poster dunk, it was hard to see Payton without a grin in a Warriors jersey.

That same smile is sure to show up when he goes up against his old team, and Green will give it right back too.

“You ultimately miss him more than you miss him on the basketball court,” Green said. “Basketball court, you have talent. You go in, you do what you have to do. But it’s the times off the court that you end up losing in the end.”

What Payton brings to court is irreplaceable. Really, it can’t be cloned. Not from one player or a collection of them. The Warriors would know.

Donte DiVincenzo was asked to play Payton up to a certain point. They are different players, though. The Warriors are beyond happy with the signing of DiVincenzo. He just doesn’t quite fit into Payton’s old shoes.

Nobody does.

Jonathan Kuminga is turning into a dangerous defender on the ball like Payton. The 6-foot-8 forward can also be used like him on offense, cutting to the basket. There is still a difference. At 20, he doesn’t know the nuances like Payton does through experience and trying to perfect an incredibly unique skill set.

Moses Moody should have been a bit of a replacement for Payton after earning his minutes last season in the Western Conference Finals when Payton was injured and out. Not everything goes according to plan. Moody’s had 13 DNPs (Did Not Plays) this season and has seen his place in the rotation dwindle at times.

RELATED: Warriors lose GP2 again after discovering his true NBA worth

Payton defends like a big man and plays the spiker role at 6-foot-2. His pressure on the ball is soul-soaking and he has a knack for steals. Especially for a guard, his knowledge of positioning is unique and unlocks a defense’s versatility. Don’t even try to judge him off the box score.

In 14 games this season, Payton is averaging 3.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game. None of these numbers are mind blowing. He set career highs last season with the Warriors in points per game (7.1), rebounds per game (3.5) and steals per game (1.4). The Warriors don’t win the title without those numbers.

He also had a 129 offensive rating and a 103 defensive rating for the champion Warriors.

“GP is a lot like me in his underpowering, if you will, if that’s a word, it’s his weapon,” Green explained. “Because they don’t realize how long it is. You can influence shots, you can get steals that your opponent might think, “Oh, it’s open,” but then one arm goes up, one arm goes out. These are things you cannot teach.

“He just has a knack for the ball, that’s why he comes out with offensive rebounds and steals. He just has a knack for the ball. Loon and I called it a low five.

His game can be indescribable. Her story speaks of passion, work, opportunity and perseverance, all traits with which Green can identify. The one word that best describes Gary Payton II came to him quickly.

“Sample!” said Draymond with the contentment of a proud older brother, two nights before their battle.

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