Jan 30, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; Oregon State Beavers guard Gary Payton II (1) passes around Arizona Wildcats guard Gabe York (1) during the first half at McKale Center. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Like father like son? Can Gary Payton II emerge from his father’s shadows and become an NBA legend himself?
In 1990, a guy from the Oregon State University was selected with the second overall pick by the Settle Super Sonics. His name, Gary Payton. Over the next 17 years, Payton established himself as one of the greatest point guards in league history.
In an era where John Stockton became the ideal floor general with his pass-first mentality. One can argue that Payton, not Stockton was the best point guard of the 90s, due to his excellent defensive ability and willingness to score.
Over the decades dramatic changes occurred specifically as the point guard position evolved. And once more Gary Payton has returned. This time however it is the elder son of the Hall-of-fame player, Gary Payton II.
Undrafted in this summer’s 2016 draft the Houston Rockets made quick moves on Payton agreeing to a three-year guaranteed contract. Now junior begins his journey as he strives to break out of his father’s shadow and create a name for himself.
The question is can Gary Payton II fit like a glove in Houston?
Mar 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oregon State Beavers guard Gary Payton II (1) passes against Virginia Commonwealth Rams guard JeQuan Lewis (1) in the first half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
2015-16 Season Stats:
Points Per Game: 16.0
Rebounds Per Game: 7.9
Assists Per Game: 5.0
Blocks Per Game: 0.5
Steals Per Game: 2.5
- Career best in points per game (16.0), assists (5.0), three-point field goal percentage (31.4%)
- Became the first two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year (2015, 2016)
- Named to the All-Pac-12 First Team
- Named to the All-Pac-12 All-Defensive Team
- 2016 Pac-12 leader in steals per game (2.5)
- 2016 Pac-12 leader in total steals (80)
Next: Offensive Skill Set
Feb 8, 2015; Corvallis, OR, USA; Oregon State Beavers guard Gary Payton II (1) dunks the ball against the Washington Huskies during the second half of the game at Gill Coliseum. Payton II led the Beavers with 17 pints. The Beavers won 64-50. Mandatory Credit: Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
With the Rockets signing Gary Payton II, Houston now has an all-star point guard for the future.
Sure, it’s going to take a few years before Payton gets the keys to Houston offense. However, he shares similar assets to a young Russell Westbrook. No, he does not play the game with the same fire and passion, but the comparison is there.
NBA Ready Body with Great Size:
Standing 6’3 and weighing 184 pounds, Payton is coming into the league with the perfect body for an NBA point guard. With a wingspan of 6.5, it’s what makes Payton an extraordinary rebounder for his size.
As an athletic guard, and a great defender, Payton could find himself as a valuable member in Mike D’Antoni’s system.
Like Westbrook, Payton is an athletic freak of nature. From a physical standpoint, he is everything a coach is looking for in a point guard.
He is a flashy athletic guard, capable of making highlight plays on any given night. In transition, Payton can excel both pushing the pace and filling the lanes. In a half court offense, Payton possesses a quick and explosive first step enough to get past any defender.
Outside of his scoring Payton has shown flashes of becoming a great play maker. Specifically he’s demonstrated excellent court vision and passing skills.
One could argue play making skills are Payton’s most underrated asset. Should Payton find himself in a position to share time with the Rockets other guards it might offer his best opportunity to showcase this skill set. To wit, getting playing time with either James Harden or Eric Gordon might offer his best chance to show D’Antoni how he could offer another option as a floor general.
If Payton can focus on developing any consistency from the field it would greatly increase his odds. Given his defensive ability and Patrick Beverley’s ongoing health issues Payton is a realistic option to grow into that role on the roster.
Next: Defensive Prowess
Feb 21, 2015; Corvallis, OR, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard Askia Booker (0) is guarded by Oregon State Beavers guard Gary Payton II (1) in the second half at Gill Coliseum. The Beavers won 72-58. Mandatory Credit: Susan Ragan-USA TODAY Sports
For a team that allowed their opponents to score 106.4 points, Houston did not do much to stop their defensive woes. That said, the addition of Gary Payton II could help the Rockets on the defensive end.
Much like his father, defense is Payton’s strongest and most reliable asset of his game. Perhaps, defense runs in the family.
During his two-year stint at Oregon State University, Payton became one of the best defensive players in the country. He won back-to-back Pac-12 Defensive player of the year awards. What makes Payton a prolific defender is his ability to force turnovers and create steals.
While leading the Beavers to their first NCAA tournament since 1990, Payton recorded 80 total steals. The third most in a single season by a senior guard in school history. As well as leading the Pac-12 in steals, averaging 2.5 per game.
As stated before, Payton is an excellent rebounder for his size. Despite standing 6’3, his athleticism and wingspan arguably made Payton the best rebounding guard in the nation. He ended his career at Oregon averaging 7.7 rebounds per game.
If Payton want’s D’Anton to remove his shackles, he must show his full potential on the defensive end. Playing alongside Patrick Beverly and Trevor Ariza, the Rockets defense may be better than what many have expected.
Next: Areas To Improve
Feb 8, 2015; Corvallis, OR, USA; Oregon State Beavers guard Gary Payton II (1) during warmup before the start of the game against the Washington Huskies at Gill Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Areas to Improve:
Despite possessing the ability to score, Payton has never been a great shooter. In fact, one can argue that his lack of shooting cost Payton a draft selection.
According to the NBA Draft Express, Payton is suspect as a set shooter and is even more streaky off the dribble. At times Payton is prone to settling for shots early in the shot clock and is ineffective from the outside.
Although he shot a career-high 31 percent from behind the arc, Payton is not a player D’Antoni can rely on.
If Payton wants to stand out and gain minutes as a rookie, his jump shot must improve throughout the season. However, as a jump shooting team,Payton should expect to take a few trips down to Rio Grande Valley to work on his jumper.
Getting to the lane for easy buckets will not be as simple in the NBA as the collegiate level. If Payton wants to exceed at the pro level, improving his shot is a must.
Next: 2016-17 Outlook
Dec 19, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; Oregon State Beavers guard Gary Payton II (1) looks back at his father after a game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. The Beavers won 76-71. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
2016-17 Season Outlook
It’s crazy to think that the Rockets were able to steal one of the nation’s best point guards. In fact, Gary Payton II is the perfect point guard to help recreate D’Antoni’s seven seconds or less offense in Houston.
Unfortunately, playing behind Patrick Beverly and the ‘points guard’ James Harden, one can assume that Payton’s playing time in Houston would be little to none. To reiterate, Payton’s best chance will be to focus on improvement and either await an opening via roster moves or injury.
Since no one wants to rely on injury or wish upon a teammate the obvious thing Payton can control is his commitment to growth. KJ McDaniels is an excellent example of a defensive player who invested in the work and is now reaping the benefits of that labor.
To that end, expect Payton to spend time in the D-League throughout his first year in the NBA.
However, on nights where he suits up for the Rockets in Houston. Here’s hoping fans witness Gary Payton II break from his father’s shadow and become a legend in his own right.
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