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Dieter Kurtenbach: The Warriors have finally found their Gary Payton II replacement

Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News on

Published in Basketball

The Warriors might be back on the right path and in the thick of things in the Western Conference, but they are still experimenting with lineups.

Draymond Green moving to the second unit might have solidified the Warriors’ non-Steph Curry minutes, but it also weakened those non-Green minutes.

The Warriors had proven to be one man short in their top-eight — a team’s true depth come the playoffs.

James Wiseman wasn’t the guy for the job. JaMychal Green doesn’t appear to be it, either. Moses Moody had a shot — the Warriors coaches didn’t like what they saw. Anthony Lamb has been a nice contributor, but he’s a two-way player.

All this experimentation has left the Warriors lamenting the exit of last season’s ultimate glue guy, Gary Payton II, who signed with the Portland Trail Blazers this past offseason

But over the past week — and, in particular, over the last two games — the Warriors might have found Payton II’s replacement: Jonathan Kuminga.

 

It’s easy to forget in the afterglow of victory, but the NBA Finals were not a straightforward affair for the Golden State Warriors, either.

It took games — and heroic efforts from Steph Curry in those contests — to find the team’s best five-man lineup. When it was finally deployed for Games 5 and 6, and the result was two Warriors wins and a title.

The lineup was unorthodox. It asked the 6-foot-3 (on a particularly limber day) Payton II to play power forward. Against a team that was long and as theoretically physical as the Celtics, it’s understandable why there was reticence from Warriors coaches to deploy Payton II in the role.

But once Payton II was given the job, he was plus-34 in the final two games of the series, a team-high.

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