Did Gary Payton II do enough in his preseason debut?
The Golden State Warriors switched things up this week in their quest to fill the 15th roster spot. In the team’s 111-99 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Gary Payton II made his preseason debut and proved a worthy contender for Avery Bradley and Mychal Mulder to ward off. A few days prior, veteran Langston Galloway was waived, while 2019 second-round pick Quinndary Weatherspoon was signed.
So with just one preseason game remaining before Tuesday night’s season opener against the Lakers, it’s time for yet another edition of the 15th roster spot power rankings. As in previous iterations, I’m assuming the Warriors will use their final roster spot, which is no sure thing, and I’m ignoring the available two-way contract spot, which both Mulder and Weatherspoon are eligible for.
More on that at the end.
5. Quinndary Weatherspoon
vs. Lakers: 1 minute, 0 points
I think it’s fairly safe to say that when a team waits until the end of training camp to sign a very fringe player, and then plays them for one minute in their penultimate game of the preseason, that said player does not factor into their plans.
Weatherspoon was almost surely just a depth piece to give the Warriors an extra body in practice, and an extra player on the bench with five players sidelined on Tuesday (Steph Curry and Draymond Green due to rest, Klay Thompson, James Wiseman, and Jonathan Kuminga due to injury). Perhaps the Warriors turn to Weatherspoon for the second two-way roster spot should Mulder not end up there, but there’s no world where he makes the 15-player roster next week.
Update: Weatherspoon has been waived.
4. Jordan Bell
vs. Lakers: 8 minutes, 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 1-for-1 shooting
Bell is not in play to make the roster, and while a serious injury to Kevon Looney, Nemanja Bjelica, or Juan Toscano-Anderson might change that … it probably wouldn’t.
There’s still a strong chance the Dubs leave the 15th roster spot open, and if that happens I would not be surprised if Bell returned in the second half of the season on a 10-day contract if the team finds itself hurting for big man depth.
Until then, this is an audition for future opportunities for the team’s former second-round pick.
3. Mychal Mulder
vs. Lakers: 7 minutes, 6 points, 1 assist, 1 block, 2-for-5 shooting, 2-for-5 three-point shooting
Give Mulder credit. He knows what his role should be on this team, and has stuck to it. He’s attempted 22 shots this preseason, and only two of them have come from inside the arc. He’s shot 7-for-20 on those three-point attempt, a fine number that doesn’t look great when you remember that threes are pretty much all he contributes.
Truthfully, the thing that hurts Mulder most is probably outside of his control. Unlike previous bench signings such as Brad Wanamaker, Jonas Jerebko, Omri Casspi, and Nick Young, Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr. have not been hesitant to let it fly from distance. Add in the Jordan Poole emergence and a returning (eventually) Thompson, and the Warriors aren’t exactly shy on three-point shooters, as they have been in previous campaigns.
That makes Mulder’s skill-set a bit more replaceable.
2. Gary Payton II
vs. Lakers: 11 minutes, 12 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover, 3 fouls, 5-for-7 shooting, 0-for-2 three-point shooting
GPII with the left
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 13, 2021
Payton made his preseason debut and calmly had the best performance that any player fighting for this roster spot has had. But is one good game, after being absent most of camp, enough for him to vault over a veteran whom the core players are likely vouching for?
For me, yes. For the team? I’m not convinced.
1. Avery Bradley
vs. Lakers: 7 minutes, 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 foul, 2-for-3 shooting
Let me reiterate: Payton would be my choice for the roster spot. His defense on Tuesday looked much better than Bradley’s has this preseason, and he was moving more off the ball.
But Bradley has been healthy, has a bizarre amount of quality veteran sheen left on him, and is likely to be the favorite behind the scenes, where Bob Myers and Steve Kerr may feel they owe one to Curry, Green, and Thompson after not trading their young assets in the offseason for established vets.
Bradley remains in front, but if Payton repeats his performance in Friday’s preseason finale they just might flip-flop.
Ultimately it feels like it’s coming down to this: a race between Payton and Bradley for the final spot on the 15-player roster, while the team crosses their fingers and hopes Mulder will accept a two-way contract. The updated rules to those types of contract should benefit them here.