Free Agency

Houston Rockets: Top-5 2022 free agent guards

N.B. Lindberg
Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls - Game Four
Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls - Game Four / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages
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Gary Payton II
2022 NBA Finals - Game Six / Adam Glanzman/GettyImages

Houston Rockets Free Agent Guard #2 Gary Payton II

Gary Payton II needs to be paid. He’ll be 30 in December and hasn’t even made $4 million in career NBA salary. Fortunately, I hear his dad is pretty rich, and he should be too after this offseason. 

Payton is maybe the best perimeter defender in the NBA. He puts the clamps on anyone under the height of 6’8, and I’d give him a fighting chance against Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. He was one of the Warriors' best players and is secretly an efficiency monster on offense. 

His true shooting percentage of 67.9% with a 3-point attempt rate of .349 is nearly unprecedented. He was the only player in the league to have a true shooting above 66% and a 3-point attempt rate above .333. While his 35.8% 3-point shooting might be a mirage, his finishing around the rim and 2-point field goal percentage were both elite. 

Payton is an excellent cutter and can make teams pay from the corner, all while providing league best defense. It’s likely his offensive efficiency will drop not playing in the Warriors’ system, but it was so otherworldly to begin with, that it won’t tank his value. 

It’s tough to know what type of deal Payton will receive. Defense first players are almost always underpaid, but a three or four year deal around $10 million per season should be a good starting point. 

Payton also should fit nicely on the Rockets as a seventh man and spot starter that plays close to 25 minutes a night. He won’t need to start and won’t block anyone’s development. Gary Payton II has waited a long time to get to this point, and the Rockets would be wise to be the team to reward him. 

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