Head coach Steve Kerr has outlined the priority on the Golden State Warriors defense this season, starting with a fully and healthy season from Gary Payton II.
The 30-year-old left the Warriors in free agency last offseason, only to return in February through a trade that involved former number two overall pick James Wiseman. Payton had some impact for the Warriors late in the playoffs, yet was never quite 100% after a core injury kept him to just 22 games throughout the entire regular season.
Steve Kerr knows that a fully fit and healthy Gary Payton II is key to the Golden State Warriors re-establishing their defensive identity.
Golden State were second in defensive rating during the 2021-22 season, with that ultimately proving the reason, along with the offensive power of Stephen Curry, as to why they were able to defeat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.
Last season, without Payton for the majority and with chemistry issues that never truly dissipated, the Warriors slipped to an average 14th-ranked defense that saw them finish just sixth in the Western Conference.
"“The first order of business in camp is to re-establish our top 10 defense, and Gary is one of the best on-ball defenders in the world,” Kerr said when asked about his defensive-minded guard on Tuesday. “Having him healthy, on the roster right away, I anticipate we’re going to re-establish our defense easier because of his presence.”"
Even more pressure could be placed on Payton with the Warriors likely to be without their defensive conductor, Draymond Green, for the opening night of the regular season.
In three of their four championship seasons over the last nine years, Golden State have ranked first or second in defensive rating. That leaves Kerr and his team under no illusions to their main priority entering this season.
The Warriors will begin their five preseason games against the Los Angeles Lakers at Chase Center on Saturday, before the regular season officially tips off against the Phoenix Suns on October 24.