Guard's injury absence could prove fatal to Warriors' chances vs. Kings

Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings - Game Two
Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings - Game Two / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Golden State Warriors' guard Gary Payton II is a confirmed out for his team's Play-In elimination game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old missed the final three games of the regular season due to a calf issue, with Kron4News' Jason Dumas reporting on Monday that Payton will also miss Thursday's second Play-In game should the Warriors move past the Kings.

The absence of Gary Payton II could prove fatal to the Golden State Warriors' chances of overcoming the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday

Payton's latest injury concern continues a frustration period for the defensive ace, having appeared in just 66 regular season games over the past two years. The 2022 NBA champion remains a valuable rotation piece when on the floor, and his absence could prove more hurtful than usual as the Warriors prepare to face Kings' All-Star guard De'Aaron Fox.

Limiting Fox's impact will be crucial to Golden State's chances of advancing, but their task will be all the more difficult without their best perimeter defender. It places significant responsibility on Andrew Wiggins who will assuredly earn the primary role on Fox.

Sacramento's reliance on their explosive guard has only increased in the absence of Malik Monk who remains out with a knee injury, while the Kings will also be without starting shooting-guard Kevin Huerter after season-ending shoulder surgery.

Fox averaged 27.4 points, 7.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds in the teams' seven-game playoff series in 2023, including a pair of 38-point performances in Games 1 and 4. The 26-year-old had 39, 29 and 29-point games in three games against Golden State during the regular season.

If Wiggins struggles to contain Fox, it's difficult to see where the Warriors would go without Payton as an option off the bench. Their next best bet may be the ever versatile Draymond Green, but that seems like a 'break glass in case of emergency' situation rather than allowing the four-time All-Star to roam as more of a help defender.

The Warriors will enter Tuesday's game as slight favorites, with Payton to be re-evaluated later in the week should the franchise move through the Play-In Tournament to earn a first-round matchup with the first-seed Oklahoma City Thunder.