The Trail Blazers are pursuing free agent guard Gary Payton II with an offer in the range of $8MM, but there’s still mutual interested in a return to the Warriors, sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Fischer adds that the Blazers are also eyeing Bruce Brown, another free agent guard, who has been with the Nets the last couple of seasons.
After bouncing between the G League and the NBA in his first five seasons and never finding a consistent home or role, Payton had a terrific season for the Warriors in 2021/22, appearing in 71 regular season games (16 starts) while averaging 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals on .616/.358/.603 shooting. Though he averaged only 17.6 minutes per night, his impact was clear when he had opportunities, showcasing jaw-dropping athleticism, a knack for the ball, hustle, and excellent defense.
The 29-year-old played a key role during Golden State’s championship run, averaging 7.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals in five Finals contests (18.5 minutes per night) after returning from a fractured left elbow. In his first six playoff games (18 minutes) prior to the injury, he averaged 7.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1 steal on .727/.750/.667 shooting.
Like Payton, Brown is one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, and the Nets trading for Royce O’Neale was viewed as an indication that Brown was unlikely to return to Brooklyn. In 71 regular season games (24.6 minutes) last season, Brown averaged 9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals on .506/.404/.758 shooting.
Despite being swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, Brown was arguably Brooklyn’s most consistent postseason performer, averaging 14 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals on .568/.429/.800 shooting.
Anthony Slater and Sam Amick of The Athletic report that both Kevon Looney and Payton are searching for more money than the Warriors are willing to offer, thus increasing the chances that Payton, in particular, bolts in free agency. Both players want to return to Golden State, but at the right price, which is where the separation currently exists, according to The Athletic’s duo.
The chance of a reunion between Otto Porter and the Warriors is still possible, per Slater and Amick, who say that Porter is contemplating whether to return on a minimum deal or take a larger offer elsewhere.