During the offseason it became apparent the direction the Trail Blazers would take as they looked to pry themselves back into playoff picture; defense was the point of emphasis.
Under second year head coach Chauncey Billups, the front office has positioned this roster in a way where Billups’ hand consists of several different lineups to hand out depending on the opposing team. With a mixture of offensive weapons and reliable defenders at each position, Billups’ possibilities come in full.
One thing that remained this offseason was the Blazers committing to having a plethora of guards to call on when the time came. This showed in the early stages when they went ahead and used their seventh overall pick on Shaedon Sharpe out of Kentucky. After adding the 19-year-old guard to the roster, the train remained on the same track when Oregon State alumni Gary Payton II landed in Rip City following a championship run with the Golden State Warriors.
Son of NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton, the 29-year-old guard is the direct embodiment of the “position-less basketball” stigma. During the 2022 season, Payton showcased his defensive versatility coming off the bench for the eventual NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
Payton’s 2022 season saw him log the most minutes in his career with over 1,200 minutes logged. In those 1,2000, Payton spent time guarding every position, both in the back-court and in the front court. At 6-foot-3, Payton had 34.91% of his time guarding either the forward or center position, according to BBall-Index. Payton’s activity alone separates him from the rest of the defenders on the Blazers current roster. Of players that played in 30 or more games, Payton ranked third last season in deflections per 48 minutes with 6.9 deflections.
During the 2022 season, Payton was put in 30 possessions where he was defending in the isolation. Of those 30 possessions, Payton held his defender to just 31.8% shooting. As an isolation defender, Payton found himself in the 92.4 percentile. Payton’s value seemed to skyrocket during the closing games of the NBA Finals. During the last three games of the series, Payton averaged 2.3 steals and just shy of a block in only 18.6 minutes of play.
Payton signed a three-year deal with the Trail Blazers on July 6th that amasses to around $26-million in total. Reports came out that several people in the Warriors organization were upset following the departure of Payton as they could not retain the dynamic defensive guard. Reports coming from a dynasty like that speak highly of Payton’s impact and they should not be taken lightly.
Payton fills the defensive deficiency that has plagued Portland for many years and will help mask the lack of defense in certain lineups. Under Chauncey Billups, Gary Payton II is primed to have major impact within the Trail Blazers nightly rotation.