Back in the 1990's and early 2000's, there probably wasn't a player in the NBA that was both hated and revered as much as Gary Payton. That hatred came from the mixture of just how dominating he was on the defensive end and just how he loved to constantly brag about it. Payton was one of the most notorious trash-talkers in history of sports, as he talked trash to everyone from Michael Jordan to Jamie Feick. However, he was able to back that bravado up by being one of the best defensive guards in NBA history. During his career, Payton was named to the NBA All-Defensive First-Team in nine consecutive years (1994-2002), while being fourth all-time in steals.
The impact that Payton made during his Hall-of-Fame career is still relevant to this day, as his son is about to start his own NBA career. Like his father, Gary Payton Jr spent his college career at Oregon State where he developed a reputation as one of the best defensive guards in college hoops. While he's a lot more silent than his father, Payton displays that same defensive intensity that pushed his father to be a nine-time NBA All-Star.
Payton Jr's able to match that intensity with a great frame (stands 6'3 with a 6'8 wingspan) and solid defensive IQ. Those tools pushed Payton to be one of the best ball-hawks in college hoops, as he averaged 2.9 steals per 40 minutes, the second-highest average among NBA Draft prospects. He has an incredible nose for the ball as he's able to read the passing lanes and make the necessary play. Payton Jr. possess that controlled aggression as he does a great job of deciphering whether to work the passing lanes or just stick by his man.
An under-rated part of Payton Jr's work on the defensive end is as a defensive rebounder. Per 40 minutes, Payton Jr. averaged 5.5 defensive boards, which is a higher total than centers Deyonta Davis (3.4 defensive boards) and Diamond Stone (3.3 defensive boards). That skill is extremely underrated as it allows Payton Jr. to quickly start the team's offense and push them in transition.
Transition is actually where Payton Jr. excels the most on the offensive end, as he's able to utilize his quickness to get an advantage on the opposition and his explosiveness to make some awe-inspiring plays at the rim. Per Synergy Sports, Payton Jr. averaged 1.12 points per possession in transition, while scoring 65% from around the rim. As evident in this rim-rocking slam against Kansas, Payton Jr. has incredible leaping ability as he just levitates and dunk right in the face of Cheick Diallo.
Payton Jr. has made a lot of strides in the half-court as an Oregon State Beaver, especially as a facilitator. Comfortable with playing inside the pick-and-roll, Payton Jr does a great job of being able to use those screens to maintain separation while still maintaining control of the offense. Payton Jr's patience is shown in the play below, as Payton's able to work around the screen, attract the defense with a little cut and throw a smooth pass to the screener. His improvement as a facilitator is backed up by him having a solid 2.21 Ast/TO ratio, which is an improvement over the 1.65 Ast/TO that he had during his initial season at Oregon State.
Another area where Payton Jr made strides is as an on-ball cutter. While he's always had a lot of potential in that area due to his athleticism and quickness, he used the 2015-16 season to become a better ball-handler. He utilizes crossovers and behind-the-back moves to trick the defender. Once he does that, he's able to use his incredible explosiveness to make plays at the rim.
The one aspect of Payton's game that's really hindering his draft stock is his inconsistent jumper. Shooting 32% from the perimeter and 33% on jumpers inside the three-point line, Payton Jr is neither effective as a spot-up shooter or through catch and shoot. A lot of that may be due to his relative inexperience, as Payton Jr only started to play against high-level competition when he transferred from junior college to Oregon State before his junior season. Those flaws could definitely fixed by more reps as he does have a pretty smooth shooting stroke, even if it can sometimes get a little janky.
The one area where Payton seems to be most comfortable is as an offensive rebounder. Averaging 2.8 offensive boards per 40 minutes, Payton Jr's able to use that explosiveness and athleticism to get an edge over the front-court players. Alongside that, he's able to use his muscular frame when he needs to box out.
Projected as a mid-2nd round pick by DraftExpress, Gary Payton Jr's definitely a sleeper in this year's draft. Despite his advanced age (will turn 24 in December) and the worries about his inconsistent jumper, he definitely has the tools to be a solid NBA player. That's especially evident on the defensive end as his muscular frame and defensive I gives him potential to guard multiple positions in the NBA. As well, his great skills as a ball-hawk and transition prowess is bound to make him a defensive weapon whenever he's on the court. While he may not live up to the status of his legendary father, Payton Jr definitely has the tools to make his own legacy in the NBA.