Payton, who has been out with a fractured left elbow since Game 2 of Golden State’s second round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, is set to return. That return — per Shams Charania of The Athletic — could come as soon as Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Warriors guard Gary Payton II (elbow fracture) is expected to return in the NBA Finals, sources say. Here's how soon: pic.twitter.com/6TaaQri0Wc
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 27, 2022
Anthony Slater of The Athletic noted how important the return of Payton would be, especially on defense.
“It’d be immense, particularly on the defensive end. Payton has emerged as one of the best perimeter stoppers in the NBA this season. Andrew Wiggins did an admirable job on Luka Doncic in the Western Conference finals, but he’ll need help against a Boston team (presumably) with more supplementary weapons than Dallas. Payton can take defensive shifts guarding Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.”
Others in the NBA world agreed on the significance of Payton’s pending return.
Finals will be roughly a month and based on practice progressions (now looks to be taking mild contact), can see him ramping up in coming days. Excellent news for the W's – another versatile defender & he can guard up due to how he plays with leverage and his hand speed + timing https://t.co/OqfFVU1k6d
— Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT (@3cbPerformance) May 27, 2022
This would be around 4 weeks after his injury which in general is reasonable assuming there is enough bone healing (it takes ~ 6 weeks in general for more complete healing) and his soft tissues / ligaments are doing well. Risk of re-injury is always there, it’s a balancing act. https://t.co/iuVdo08Uiw
— Dr. Nirav Pandya, M.D. (@DrNiravPandya) May 27, 2022
Big news for GS. Getting an ELITE defender & disruptor back is going to HUGE for a chance at a championship https://t.co/EmyBxVMBon
— The Beautiful Struggle (@TheLakeShow4L) May 27, 2022
Shams says GP2 could return for Game 1 if the Finals. HUGE. https://t.co/UGqLBnwoJA
— Ali Thanawalla (@Ali_Thanawalla) May 27, 2022
Warriors only time being fully healthy all season coming in the finals? Yes please. https://t.co/T7fTT5ENpA
— Matthew Cardoza (@mattjcardoza) May 27, 2022
Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be on Thursday, June 2, which is four weeks and two days after Payton’s injury. While Slater (as well as Payton’s teammate, Draymond Green) feels that the Warriors will match up against the Boston Celtics, that’s still to be determined. Boston leads the Miami Heat 3-2 heading into Friday’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Payton has been sidelined since Game 2 of Golden State’s second round win over the Memphis Grizzlies. He was injured on a controversial Flagrant 2 from by Memphis’ Dillon Brooks.
Payton set career highs during the regular season with 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. He also played in 71 games, matching his games played total in his first five NBA seasons combined.