Warriors' free agent signing is awful news for fan-favorite guard

Golden State Warriors v Philadelphia 76ers
Golden State Warriors v Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

Following the departure of franchise legend Klay Thompson to the Dallas Mavericks, the Golden State Warriors moved quickly to secure another shooting guard in the way of 26-year-old De'Anthony Melton.

The former Philadelphia 76ers guard is signing a one-year, $12.8 million with the Warriors in free agency, providing him the opportunity to fight for a potential starting role next to Stephen Curry in the back court.

The acquisition of De'Anthony Melton is awful news for Gary Payton II and hints his time with the Golden State Warriors may be coming to an end

Melton's acquisition could impact a number of players currently on the Golden State roster, but perhaps no one is set to be more affected than fan-favorite Gary Payton II. The 31-year-old opted into his $9.1 million player option late last month, removing him from the list of this year's free agents.

Yet Payton's future is far from certain amid a myriad of changes for the franchise. Melton presents as an upgrade -- while he's not quite the same perimeter defender that Payton is, he's above average on that end of the floor and should be a significant upgrade offensively.

You can argue that Melton is simply replacing Thompson's role and that Payton shouldn't be overly impacted, yet that idea goes out the door after news that the Warriors are working to finalize a sign-and-trade for sharpshooter Buddy Hield.

Should that eventuate, Payton will be pushed down the rotation more with Podziemski, Melton and potentially Hield all ahead of him. That doesn't even account for Moses Moody who may be above him as options at the two or the three, and Lindy Waters III who Golden State acquired via trade last week.

There's a boatload of guards on the Warrior roster, and it's looking increasingly likely that Payton is the odd man out. He's still the best defender of the lot, yet there's a major question mark on his availability after playing just 66 of a possible 164 regular season games across the last two years.

With the Warriors exploring other moves that could include a blockbuster deal for Lauri Markkanen, it's almost becoming inevitable that Payton's expiring contract may be used as a trade piece in what would be a bittersweet blow given his loveable personality and on-court impact over recent years.