Warriors' roster still faces many questions after GP2 trade


SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors interrupted Super Bowl Sunday with news that had fans and the franchise on pins and needles.

Despite Gary Payton II's failed physical, the Warriors have completed their four-team, four-player trade that brings Payton back to Golden State from the Portland Trail Blazers and sends former No. 2 overall draft pick James Wiseman to the Detroit Pistons, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area.

After a lot of frustration and confusion, the conclusion was the only right answer. For all sides. 

Payton wants to be with the Warriors -- he never truly wanted to leave in free agency -- and he feels most comfortable around their training staff. He has experience with them, is comfortable with them and saw them help him return from a fractured left elbow in the playoffs to playing a major role in the 2022 NBA Finals. That all should matter and be a priority, with Payton expected to miss a significant amount of time to an abdominal issue despite playing in 14 of the Blazers' last 17 games and three straight.

The Warriors want him here, too. Payton had a large contingent of people in the building who were fighting for him to stay in San Francisco over the offseason. They had a 56-27 record in games Payton played last season. They went 47-24 with him in the lineup in the regular season and then 9-3 in the playoffs. 

"I love Gary Payton," Klay Thompson said Wednesday night after playing Payton in the Warriors' loss to the Blazers. "Just a great pro and a champion. He's just a great guy."

Payton had the highest Net Rating (16.9) of anybody in a two-man lineup with Steph Curry last season, and he unlocks Draymond Green's defensive greatness to another level. The Warriors had a 97.7 defensive rating with Payton on the floor and Green playing center last season. His addition shows a change in thinking, a win-now move with their highest draft pick since selecting No. 1 overall in 1995 going out the door. 

And it was expected to be a seamless fit, helping the Warriors get closer to their NBA-champion selves. 

That's not even accounting for the financial side of it all. Moving on from Wiseman would save the Warriors millions. Payton also isn't a one-year rental. He's under a three-year contract, someone that should help in the present and future of the team's championship window with their veteran stars. 

Then there's Wiseman. The change of scenery should be a grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side situation for the young big man. He only played only 60 NBA games in two-and-a-half years and wasn't going to be a part of the Warriors' rotation. Wiseman is a 21-year-old center who finally will see regular playing time and be allowed to make mistakes and develop through them in a low-pressure environment.

The last thing his career needs is coming back to the place that already said goodbye.

But starting with determining exactly how long Payton will be sidelined, the Warriors, at 28-28, have plenty of questions to be answered. 

Golden State's roster is at 14 players, giving them an open 15th spot. One of those (Ryan Rollins) is occupied by a second-round pick expected to miss the rest of the season with a Jones fracture in his right foot after playing only 12 NBA games. Andre Iguodala, who has played three games this season and now has missed 14 straight with right hip soreness, has another. And now Payton does in street clothes. 

Second-year player Moses Moody stepped in and earned Payton's minutes in the Western Conference Finals last season as a rookie when Payton was injured. Right now, he's seeing limited minutes or DNPs (Did Not Play). 

Rookie Patrick Baldwin Jr. scored 23 points for the Warriors with nine rebounds, three assists and was a plus-7 on Saturday night. Correction: The Santa Cruz Warriors. The Warriors internally are very high on Baldwin. He also turned 20 years old less than three months ago and needs game reps, after missing almost all of his senior year in high school to an ankle injury and then only playing 12 games as a college freshman.

Anthony Lamb also scored 23 points with nine rebounds and three assists, along with three blocks and a plus-11 Saturday night for Santa Cruz. It was his first G League game of the season. Before the season, that was not the plan. The two-way player has been active for 42 Warriors games this season and became a mainstay in the rotation. 

His contract only allows him to be active for 50 NBA games, and there still are 26 remaining in the regular season. Lamb was inactive in four straight games, all following Curry's lower left leg injury. Point guard and fellow two-way contract player Ty Jerome has played five straight games, and only has 14 left as a two-way player. 

Both still are candidates for the Warriors' open roster spot. 

"We're creeping up on the total, so with Steph out we're using those for Ty," Kerr explained before Saturday night's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. "We're going to hang onto Lamb's for later, if possible."

RELATED: As losses mount, frustrated Dubs only have themselves to blame

The wrinkle in Payton's injury might make the Warriors more hard-pressed to find talent in the buyout market, too. Do they still prioritize a big man there, or more of a guard/wing now? The Warriors don't have a single player taller than 6-foot-9 with Wiseman traded. 

All of this is without even mentioning Curry. An injury update won't come again until after the All-Star break. It's still unknown when he'll return to games. He hasn't been seen on the sidelines, and a large walking crutch leaned against his locker before Saturday's game.

Curry historically has returned from injuries extremely strong and without missing a beat. His first few games back from injury earlier this season were mixed results, but he was back to looking like himself before going down against the Minnesota Timberwolves and had averaged 28.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists while shooting 41.2 percent on 3-point attempts in 12 games since returning from his left shoulder injury.

How long Payton will be out for, and what player he'll be upon his return is the biggest unknown of them all. In the end, bringing him back to the Bay was the right decision for countless reasons.

It's only fitting Payton coming home is the latest Warriors twist to a headache of a season.

Download and follow the Dubs Talk Podcast

Contact Us