Washington Wizards sign Gary Payton II as injuries pile up

Washington Wizards Gary Payton II (Photo by Christian Inoferio/NBAE via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Gary Payton II (Photo by Christian Inoferio/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards did some last-minute Christmas shopping and now there’s a new face on the roster.

The Washington Wizards should be wishing for one thing and one thing only this Christmas season: Health.

Heading into the Christmas Eve eve game against the New York Knicks, the Washington Wizards will be without eight (yes, EIGHT!!) players.

Luckily, some reinforcements are on their way, at least for the backcourt. The Wizards have now announced that they have signed Gary Payton II, adding a much-needed healthy body to the rotation.

Payton has been lighting up the G-League this season with the South Bay Lakers. Through 16 games, he’s averaging 21.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game. Payton has failed to record a double-double in just two of the 16 games he’s played this season and currently holds the highest Player Efficiency Rating in the G-League, per Basketball-Reference.

Payton does A LOT on the offensive end in the G-League, and that’s great for a Washington team that is currently without a lot of reliable firepower. But what Payton does on the defensive end is even more promising for the Wizards.

Through the first 16 games of the G-League season, Payton has swiped 51 steals. That averages out to 3.2 steals per game. Both are G-League bests. His defensive rating, 104.8, is eighth-best in the G-League, making him one of just two players (Donta Hall) to have a top-ten offensive and defensive rating this season.

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Payton might not be around for long. Last season he signed a 10-day contract in January and appeared in just three Wizards games before heading back to the G-League. So it’s very possible Payton isn’t part of the long-term plan and instead is just a hot hand they found to help stop the bleeding.

But with the laundry list of injuries and the trade deadline getting ever closer, Payton could quickly find himself as either part of the plan, part of a trade, or part of a deep G-League run. The way this season has gone, it’s anybody’s guess.