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Marcus Thompson: Warriors letting Gary Payton II walk could cost them a championship

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors let Gary Payton II walk. That surprised folks in and out of the league, given Payton II’s enormous value as an athletic, switchable defender, and someone who provided cutting and finishing ability, both in the half-court and on the fast break.

Instead, he signed a well-deserved, three-year, $28 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Marcus Thompson II, who knows the Warriors as well as anyone, said he was stunned by Payton II departing and thinks it has the potential to cost the team a title.

“I think losing Gary Payton II was wild.” Thompson said. “To me, that move, I think it has championship implications. They kind of had to do something [by signing Donte DiVincenzo] because GPII, that could cost you. I don’t want to be dramatic about it, but that can cost you a championship.”

“When it all comes down to matchups and having a counter, being able to throw GPII at somebody was hugely significant. Like it was huge. There’s a reason he’s playing 25 minutes in big games in the finals. That’s a major chip that they walked away from.”

Thompson credited the Warriors, at least, for picking up DiVincenzo, who’s another athletic guard, but without the same defensive prowess as Payton II. He said if he can be “60 percent” of what Payton II was defensively and hit most of his open shots, it’s a “pretty nice fallback plan.”

Still, losing Payton II — “their baby” as Thompson called him — stings.

The only reason it makes sense is because the Warriors clearly had a limit to how much they could spend, given the impending enormity of their tax bill, which is only likely to grow in future seasons.

While Payton II may have been affordable next year, it was the ensuing seasons that Thompson believes would have been an issue.

“After next year, that salary is added to whatever raise Jordan Poole gets, whatever raise Steph Curry and Klay Thompson get,” Thompson said. “When you start adding that all together, it was very clear that Joe Lacob had a number, like, we’re not passing this number. We just can’t go above this number in year two or year three or whatever and they knew what that was, and they just they couldn’t do it. And you know they couldn’t do it because I guarantee you they love GPII. Like I said, he was their baby.”

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