The Los Angeles Lakers were rumored to be signing free agent guard Gary Payton II to a two-way contract Sunday, and on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the team made it official.
Payton, who averaged 2.8 points and 1.8 assists in 11.4 minutes per game over 18 appearances over the last two season with the Milwaukee Bucks, becomes the Lakers’ second player on a two-way contract, with the other being guard Alex Caruso.
The son of former Lakers guard and Hall-of-Famer Gary Payton has also spent time in the G League with both the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Wisconsin Herd, where he averaged 14.4 points, 3.3 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game in 52 games over two seasons.
Payton is with the team for Monday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, which is of note as Lonzo Ball is considered questionable due to a left knee sprain.
The signing of Payton II was made possible when the Lakers waived Vander Blue last week, opening up a two-way contract. Such a deal allows the signed player to play most of their time on an NBA team’s G League affiliate while also spending up to 45 days on an NBA roster while making NBA salary.
Players signed to such contracts do not count against the team’s 15-man roster and are given a 16th or 17th spot on the team.
The Lakers’ only full-time, traditional backup point guard currently is Tyler Ennis, meaning it makes sense for the front office to continue to mine for backcourt reinforcements.
Payton isn’t a pass-first point guard in the mold of Ball, and the 30.6 percent shooting he showed in the G League won’t fix the team’s spacing issues, but the athleticism that allows him to tirelessly get to the basket (where he shot 63.6 percent on twos in the G League) could benefit the team if they give Payton minutes.
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