Gary Payton II recently reconnected with the Golden State Warriors, but one analyst believes the seasoned guard could be a trade target for the Denver Nuggets this offseason.
The Nuggets, who just defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in four games to get to the NBA Finals, may need to find a replacement for guard Bruce Brown Jr., according to Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report. Denver had the best record in the West (53-29), but in order to create a squad that features players like Michael Porter Jr., Jamal Murray, and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, the team spent $65 million more than the salary maximum allowed.
“The Denver Nuggets will have a hard time re-signing Bruce Brown Jr. if he hits free agency via the early termination option in his contract,” Hughes wrote on May 20. “Unless they clear cap space, the most they can offer him using non-Bird rights is a starting salary of $7.8 million in 2023-24. Brown has dramatically outperformed that figure, which means Denver is likely to need a replacement.”
He believes that GP2 is the ideal choice for Denver.
Dubs Likely Won’t Let Payton Slip Away Again
After being moved to Golden State in February, 6-foot-3, 200-pound Payton averaged 5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game. His defensive efforts are highly praised. Payton, a fan favorite, won’t cost the Warriors a fortune either.
Next season, GP2 will earn $8.7 million, and the next year, he will earn $9.1 million with a player option. The Warriors would probably want a player of equivalent worth in any deal, and Denver doesn’t have one. A defensive specialist and excellent all-around player, Denver doesn’t have one.
“With Gary, you know what you’re getting,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said about Payton in April of 2023, per Monte Poole of NBC Sports. “He’s smart, he does a little bit of everything a winning team needs, and he fits our team really well. I’ve been in basketball most of my life, and I haven’t seen many players like him.”
Golden State may undergo change this offseason, but unless the team receives an offer it can’t refuse, it would be remarkable if Payton were to leave again.