Warriors' Gary Payton II a 'great weapon' on defense for Steve Kerr

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Payton II a 'great weapon' on defense for Kerr, Warriors originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Warriors surprised many around the NBA and even some in their own locker room when they cut Avery Bradley right before the start of the 2021-22 season and eventually brought back Gary Payton II on a non-guaranteed contract.

But six games into the season, Payton is proving to be a valuable asset for coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors.

Payton has played 37 minutes so far this season, and he has scored 16 points while making all four of his 3-point attempts. But his defense is the primary reason he currently holds the 15th roster spot.

As The Athletic's Anthony Slater pointed out after the Warriors' 103-82 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night at Chase Center, Payton has been subbed into the game at the end of three separate quarters so far this season, and each time, his defense has led to a steal.

After the game, Slater asked Warriors coach Steve Kerr about having the ability to put a player like Payton in the game in those situations.

"He's just a great weapon to have, defensively especially, but he's also hitting his threes this year," Kerr said during his postgame press conference. "So he has worked hard on his shot, dynamic defensively. Ready every single night. Always cheering everybody on. He's a guy you can play 20 minutes or zero and he's still got the same energy, the same life. He's just a great guy to have on the team, great teammate."

While Bradley had fans in the Warriors' locker room, so does Payton. Steph Curry spoke last week about how happy he is to have the 28-year-old on the team.

“One thousand percent,” Curry said after the Warriors' win over the Kings last Sunday when asked if there was value in filling the 15th and final roster spot.

“Defensively he gives us an edge,” Curry added. “And then he knocked down two 3s, which was huge. If he’s going to get open shots, he has to take them. We just want him to stay locked in, stay competitive and stay focused on when his moment comes and show he can do it.”

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Payton's contract doesn't become guaranteed until January, but for the moment, he's earning playing time and has secured the trust of Kerr, Curry and the rest of the Warriors.

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