Gary Payton II Injury Update Is Bigger Blow to Warriors' Title Hopes Than You Think

Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II.
Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II. / David Berding/GettyImages

The Golden State Warriors lost a key piece of their rotation in their Game 2 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, and it could effect their outlook for the rest of the playoffs.

Gary Payton II could be done for the season after suffering a fractured elbow on a hard foul from Dillon Brooks. The play led to Brooks being ejected from the game, but the Warriors look to have lost their primary perimeter defender for the rest of the postseason.

While Payton's surface numbers don't jump off the board (7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists per game this season), he is far and away Golden State's best perimeter defender, and his absence in Game 2 is a major reason Ja Morant scored 47 points on 15-of-31 shooting.

The Warriors moved Payton into the starting lineup this series to shut down Morant, and he likely would have drawn Devin Booker, Chris Paul or Luka Doncic in the Western Conference Finals if the Warriors made it there.

Morant has run wild on Golden State to start this series, and even though the Warriors stole a game in Memphis, the team is no longer the favorite to win the NBA title at WynnBET Sportsbook.

The Suns (+225) have leapfrogged the Warriors (+300) in the latest odds, and Payton's injury certainly factors in. This season, Payton was third on the team in defensive box plus/minus, behind just Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. However, it gets even more impressive.

Iguodala was a net-negative on offense this season, and Green's lengthy absence led to Payton finishing second on the team (!) in box plus/minus behind only Steph Curry. For those who don't know, box plus/minus is a score-based metric that estimates a basketball player’s contribution to the team when that player is on the court.

It essentially is an estimate of the points per 100 possessions that a player contributed above a league average player. In Payton's case, he was 3.7 points better. Curry was 5.8.

The Warriors were also plus-9.8 points per 100 possessions when Payton was on the floor this season. He's not the flashiest name on the roster, but he's elite in his role, and the Warriors have already shown they're going to have a hard time filling the gap.

Steve Kerr went to Damion Lee in a few spurts following the Payton injury, but it is possible that rookie Moses Moody or veteran Juan Toscano-Anderson also see some playing time in this series for defensive purposes.

Golden State is still favored to beat Memphis, but the road to a series win and a potential NBA Finals berth is a lot tougher with Payton sidelined.