While Gary Payton II would prefer to remain with the Golden State Warriors, it appears the two sides could be headed for a divorce in free agency.
The odds of Payton leaving the Dubs in free agency are "rising rapidly," according to The Athletic's Anthony Slater and Sam Amick, and there's internal belief that the franchise is likely to lose him this summer:
"Facing a record tax bill multiplying each additional dollar spent by nearly seven, the Warriors entered free agency intent on avoiding any overpay that the market doesn’t demand. They want to bring both [Kevon] Looney and Payton back. Both players prefer a reunion with the defending champions, if the price is right. That’s where the current separation exists."
The news comes after Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported that the Portland Trail Blazers have expressed interest in Payton and are willing to offer him $8 million.
Payton is coming off a one-year deal with Golden State that was worth nearly $2 million.
Payton's father, Hall of Famer Gary Payton, spoke with Heavy.com's Sean Deveney in April about the possibility of his son returning to the Warriors in 2022-23:
“I would never tell my son not to explore something that would be better or would be best for him. But I think he understands that Golden State is the best situation for him if there is playing time and they get it right. But if it doesn’t work out, he knows that this is a business and he has to move on. I think he wants to stay with the Golden State Warriors and I think the Warriors want to stay with him. But as you understand, this is a business. They’re capped up. They gotta pay Draymond (Green), they gotta pay (Stephen) Curry, they gotta pay Klay (Thompson), now they’re going to give (Jordan) Poole a lot of money. So I don’t know how that’s going to work out.
"Our agent is going to give him the best advice and do what he has got to do. But I don’t think my son is a dummy. Because he’s my son.”
After bouncing around the NBA for the first four years of his career, having played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards, Payton has appeared to have finally found a home with Golden State.
The 29-year-old had a solid season off the bench for the Dubs, averaging 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals while shooting 61.6 percent from the floor and 35.8 percent from deep in 71 games.
Payton was just as impressive in the playoffs, averaging 6.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting 65.9 percent from the floor and 53.3 percent from deep in 12 games to help the Warriors capture the 2022 NBA title.
The Oregon State product's ability to guard multiple positions and drive to the basket on offense make him a valuable asset to any team. That said, it's no surprise he's generating quite a bit of interest on the open market.
Golden State is already going to have to pay the luxury tax next season, so it's hard to imagine the franchise paying Payton, especially when its top priority is bringing back Looney for 2022-23 and beyond.
In addition to the Trail Blazers, the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets and Dallas Mavericks have been linked to Payton this offseason. If the Warriors lose the veteran this summer, it'll be interesting to see how they replace him.