Gary Payton II becoming Warriors hidden gem with improved 3-point shot

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GP2 solidifying hidden gem status with improved 3-point shot originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Warriors were one of the few teams dodging this latest COVID-19 outbreak until recently, when their second- and third-leading scorers, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole, were added to the health and safety protocols.

It is yet to be seen if there are others affected by the virus, but in the meantime, the Warriors return home after a five-game road trip in which they went a satisfactory 3-2. 

Here are some notes and observations about the last week of action:

1) The Warriors are off to a normal Kerr-era start

Even without Klay Thompson to start this year, the Warriors are on a pace very similar to the dynastic years in the Steve Kerr era. 

  • 2014-15: 25-5

  • 2015-16: 29-1

  • 2016-17: 26-4

  • 2017-18: 24-6

  • 2018-19: 20-10

  • 2019-20: 6-24

  • 2020-21: 16-14

  • 2021-22: 24-6

This current version of the Dubs has equaled or bettered two of the 30-game starts in their recent past, when they had Kevin Durant (and a healthy Thompson). When the Warriors reach full strength this season with their active roster, their potential is approaching the historic years of the recent past.

2) Damion Lee is due to bust out of his shooting slump

Speaking of similar starts to the season, Damion Lee is following a pattern pretty closely to his 2020-21 campaign. 

This season, Lee started out the gates on fire, making 50 percent of his shots from deep over the first six games. However, following a hip injury and then the birth of his son, Lee has not been able to find his rhythm, making only 21 percent of his 3-pointers in the last 18 games.

Interestingly enough, this beginning to the season might be a trend, and if so, Lee should be due to light it up again.

RELATED: Warriors still trail Suns for top spot in NBA power rankings

Last season, he started out the gates the first 10 games shooting 49 percent from deep. An injury to his hand threw off his rhythm a bit, and over the next 19 games, Lee shot only 31 percent from long range. However, like the Warriors are hoping this season, he busted out of his mini-slump to shoot 43 percent from 3 over the final 28 games of the year before COVID-19 ended his season early. 

3) Gary Payton II is finding consistency from long range

One of the reasons that many assumed that Gary Payton II could never find an established spot in the NBA was his lack of 3-point shooting from the guard spot. The Warriors luckily found out that he has a lot more to bring than that.

Payton II has been a revelation on defense, as well as on offense from the dunker spot and in transition. As he has grown more comfortable at the NBA level, his 3-point stroke has come around as well.

After starting out the season hitting his first four 3-pointers, Payton II shot only 24 percent from deep (5 for 21) over the following 14 games. Despite his 3-point woes, GP2 was an impact player who made his mark on practically every game. Yet over the last nine games, he has re-established himself as an outside threat, making eight of his 18 attempts (44 percent). 

Even without the 3-point shooting, Payton II has been a surprisingly great addition to the team. But if he can stay consistent as a floor spacer, the Warriors may have uncovered one of the rare hidden gems in the NBA. 

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