Fan favorite could be sacrificed by Warriors as salary-matching trade piece

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The first of the Golden State Warriors' offseason plans is likely to materialize in the next two weeks, with Gary Payton II having until June 19 to decide on whether he'll opt in to or out of his $9.1 million player option for next season.

Payton hinted at his exit interview that he could opt out of the deal to renegotiate a new contract with the Warriors, allowing him to secure more long-term money while helping the franchise alleviate their short-term payroll issues

Gary Payton II could become a trade candidate if he doesn't renegotiate a new contract with the Golden State Warriors in free agency

If Payton opts out of his contract on June 19, that could be an indication of his management and Golden State being on the same page in regard to a new contract when free agency begins less than two weeks later. However, if he opts in, that could signal that they weren't exactly seeing eye-to-eye.

According to The Athletic's Anthony Slater on a recent episode of the Warriors Plus Minus podcast, Payton could become a trade candidate as salary filler should he opt in to the $9.1 million player option.

"If he opts in because there isn't some kind of longer term deal that either side can work out, then I think he becomes potential trade matching."

Anthony Slater

Slater reiterated Payton's expected desire to remain with the Warriors, citing his friendship with Stephen Curry and his trust in the franchises medical staff following a brief but turbulent time with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The 31-year-old has played in just 66 of a possible 164 regular season games over the past two years, meaning it's highly unlikely he would get close to, or more than $9.1 million should he opt out and become a free agent.

Slater's colleague Marcus Thompson believes Payton and Golden State could agree on a new two-year, $12 million deal, allowing the franchise to reduce their payroll and luxury tax issues over the next two seasons but giving the defensive-minded guard $3 million more overall.

Payton remains one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and a valuable piece of Steve Kerr's rotation when healthy, having averaged 15.5 minutes in 44 games this season.