Warriors Gary Payton. Apr 3, 2022; Sacramento, California, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II (0) during the second quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

One day after securing a spot in the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors got good news regarding their injured star, Gary Payton II.

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.

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.

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.

[Shams Charania]

About Michael Dixon

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