While Rockets fans scratched their heads at another point guard-less draft class from Daryl Morey's front office, the GM was lying in wait, ready to pounce as soon as the 60th pick was in, and he did. According to multiple reports, the team has signed Gary Payton II, an athletic guard with a defensive streak, to a three-year contract.
Chances are most of the contract is un-guaranteed, but that doesn't matter. Houston finally has a young point guard it can try to develop for the first time since Nick Johnson, who helped land Ty Lawson but is currently not on an NBA roster. Here's what Jeremy Brener wrote hours before the draft on The Glove Jr.
Beverley is a very easy comparison for Payton. Both players are tenacious and defensive-minded. The only thing Beverley has over Payton is a better three-point shooting game (although that wasn't always the case). The explosiveness is there for Payton, and he will fight for every offensive board in the game. His effort will never be questioned. He has had to fight for everything and he has not been spoon-fed, even if his father is one of the greatest guards in NBA history.
The best case scenario for Payton is he lands with a team that has a need for a point guard and could get decent playing time in the near future. The worst case scenario is that Payton ends up with the wrong team who drafts him because of his name. Payton is a raw prospect and has potential to be a good 3-and-D player in the league. However, he needs a year or two to develop his shot and he could be a solid player in the league. Hopefully the Rockets can draft him and send him down to the Valley where he will be forced to work on his three-point game. Then in a few years, when Beverley approaches his early thirties, Payton can be wheeled into the rotation.
I disagree slightly with Jeremy's assessment, not because he's wrong but because it doesn't apply: unless the Rockets sign a free agent point guard, Payton will be called on to play. Considering most people think Conley either stays in Memphis or goes to San Antonio, he's a long shot. Jeremy Lin (regrettably) makes a ton of sense for this team. But he doesn't have the physical tools GPII does.
Payton can't really shoot that well, but that's a skill that can be learned. The Rockets really just need bodies at point guard right now, and Payton certainly fits the bill. He's got better size than Beverley and should be able to guard most NBA shooting guards. He's also a much more explosive leaper.
Since Zhou Qi won't be sniffing the NBA this year, the Rockets rookie class is Chinanu Onuaku and Payton. Summer League starts in a few weeks.