The first day NBA teams could begin negotiating with free agents almost came and went Thursday with the Portland Trail Blazers reportedly finalizing just one deal.
But later Thursday night, hours after agreeing to a contract extension with Anfernee Simons, the Blazers agreed to a three-year deal with guard Gary Payton II that will pay him $28 million, a source confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported the news.
Payton, 29, the son of Oregon State legend Gary Payton, adds backcourt depth and versatility as a defender. Payton II, who also played at Oregon State, averaged 7.1 points in 17.6 minutes per game for the Warriors during their run to the NBA title.
The Blazers, as expected, signed guard Simons to a four-year, $100 million contract extension soon after things began popping around the league at 3 pm The Blazers retaining Simons, a restricted free agent, was a virtual given and the franchise didn’t even wait to allow one team to sign the 2018 first-round pick to an offer sheet.
After that, all was quiet on the Blazers’ front until the news about Payton hit.
The 6-foot-3 Payton is a great success story. He had a stellar career with the Beavers but went undrafted in 2016. He played summer league with Houston that year and appeared in six preseason games before being waived in October 2016. He then appeared in 18 regular-season games over two seasons with Milwaukee ( 2016-2018) before playing 11 games with the Los Angeles Lakers (2017-18) and then 32 over two seasons with Washington (2018-2020). Two seasons ago he caught on with Golden State and saw action in 10 games.
Last season, Payton II’s career took off and he became a valuable player off the bench for the Warriors. During the NBA Finals against Boston, Payton averaged 7.0 points and 3.2 rebounds off the bench.
The Blazers’ starting backcourt will consist of Simons and Damian Lillard. Payton is versatile enough and defensive-minded enough to see time at point guard, shooting guard and small forward.
Payton II had a defensive rating of 102.3 last season and 101.1 the prior season.
Adding another guard, especially of the 6-3 variety, is a bit puzzling. The Blazers also have the 6-5 Josh Hart on the roster. He plays shooting guard and small forward. The 6-5 Nassir Little will also be in the mix at small forward. Then there is 6-6 rookie guard Shaedon Sharpe, selected with the No. 7 pick in last week’s NBA draft.
What the Blazers don’t have are very many proven players over 6-6. Portland has completed a trade that will bring 6-8 forward Jerami Grant to the roster. But other than Nurkic, not yet re-signed, the Blazers have nobody else over 6-6 who figures to be in the regular rotation.
Power forward Justise Winslow is 6-6. Forward/Center Trendon Watford, who will participate in summer league, is 6-9 and not a lock to be in the regular rotation come the regular season.
The Blazers appear to have used the midlevel exception to sign Payton. That leaves the bi-annual exception to sign more size. Or, a trade could be on the horizon.
Whatever the case, as of right now, the regular rotation certainly could use added size and length.
The next major move for the Blazers will likely be re-signing Nurkic. The Blazers have not been linked to any other centers in the free-agent market, not even to Phoenix Suns’ star Deandre Ayton, who very possibly could be traded in the coming days.
Nurkic had one of his best seasons with the Blazers before plantar fasciitis shut him down after the All-Star break. According to team sources, bringing back Nurkic has been the plan since the trade deadline came and went in February with him still on the roster.
— Aaron Fentress | afentress@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).
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