Much anticipation surrounded the South Bay Lakers going into the 2019-20 NBA G-League season. In previous years, the Los Angeles Lakers themselves have been able to take on-board young talent to develop, in the tanking years, but not this season.
This season was set up was different, obviously, with the pairing of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, alongside a stellar supporting cast. Therefore, the young talent has been trickled down to the G-League, to represent South Bay, to further their development.
The Lakers’ G-League affiliate team looked stacked going into the season, with the likes of Talen Horton-Tucker, Zach Norvell Jr, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Devontae Cacok, Gary Payton II, David Stockton, Travis Wear, and Andre Ingram, among those on the books.
All eyes have been locked on recent draft pick Horton-Tucker, two-way players, Antetokounmpo and Cacok. Eyes have also been set upon former two-way player, Norvell Jr, who recently lost his place to Cacok. But another name has stolen the show so far this season for South Bay. Gary Payton II, son of “The Glove” himself.
Production is sometimes hard to come by in the G-League, with numerous players looking for touches to impress the onlooking NBA outfits. Although, production has not been an issue for Payton II. His numbers are looking ever-so impressive.
Through 12 games, as South Bay sit 7-5, he is stuffing the stats sheet. Averaging; 18.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 3.4 steals, and 1.1 blocks. All of this has been on an incredibly efficient 57% shooting from the field. Payton II has broken the 20 point barrier on 5 occasions, and has recorded 9 double-doubles already this season.
On December 10, Payton II recorded a season-high 30 points, against the Santa Cruz Warriors. Alongside the flurry of points, he added 7 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block, on 14-20 shooting.
What’s been even more impressive, is that pretty much all of his offensive damage, in terms of points, has been done from within the arc. Payton II’s 3-point game is virtually non-existent (15%), but that doesn’t appear to effect him, instead finishing at the rim at will, with the occasional ferocious slam. Whilst in-between, exercising his vision, and dishing out sweet assists to teammates.
Additionally, being just 6-foot-3 makes his rebounding numbers even more impressive. He can really do damage in that facet of his game, both defensively and offensively, where he is averaging 6.6 and 2.5 rebounds, respectively.
Defensively he is building a reputation as well. Again, his short height really doesn’t effect his game in this aspect. He is leading South Bay’s roster in steals with 42, the second is Cacok with 13. In blocks, surprisingly, Payton II is top too, with 13, trailing him is Antetokounmpo with 12. Very impressive for a 6-foot-3 guard.
A triple-double hasn’t been recorded yet for Payton II, but it will surely only be a matter of time. Multiple triple-double performances will be waiting in the wings, for sure.
At 27-years-old, these statistics aren’t a complete surprise, but the fashion in which he’s dominating games and leading a South Bay Lakers roster, packed with talent, is. Another NBA opportunity could come knocking very soon.
Payton II last gave the NBA a crack in the 2018-19 season, with the Washington Wizards. Where he averaged 3.7 points, 1.3 assists, 1 steals, through 3 games (5.3 minutes per game), in the capital. He did represent the Lakers in the second-half of the 2017-18 campaign too.
With the Lakers, Payton II featured in 11 games, averaging 3.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists, in 10.5 minutes per game. In the final contest of that season, against the Los Angeles Clippers, he scored a career-high 25 points, and also posted a career-high 12 rebounds.
The talent is certainly there, but time may be running out for Gary Payton II. However, he is doing everything right at present time, and multiple NBA teams must be casting an eye over the South Bay Lakers star. He may not find the NBA opportunity with the Lakers themselves, but he might find it elsewhere.
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