With a score (and team names) that only the NBA D-League could produce, the Sioux Falls Skyforce clipped the Rio Grande Valley Vipes on Wednesday night, 135-129, in a defensive battle that clearly found no flow from the start. Although former Gonzaga star Kyle Wiltjer may have been the high scorer on the night for the Valley Vipers, it was former Oregon State standout Gary Payton II, who chipped in one of the best nights of his young NBA D-League career, with an impressive 21 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals.
While it was believed that Payton II had a strong potential to make an NBA roster this summer, a sports hernia injury cut the young star’s chances short during the NBA Summer League and forced the 24-year old to try and make a roster via the tryout circuit. Payton II was signed by the Houston Rockets in late June, but a crowded depth chart forced the Rockets to waive Payton II in late October, sending the talented guard to their NBA D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. From there, Payton II has done nothing but impress.
Back in early December, the affectionately known “GP2” had a 51 point outing against the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Los Angeles Lakers NBA D-League affiliate team, and has continued to showcase his undeniable skill-set since. Through the first 24 games of his NBA D-League career, Payton II is averaging 15.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals per contest. He ranks within the top 100 in the league, in all of the major statistical categories, including currently sitting at 6th in D-League in steals, 15th in minutes played and 31st in assists. Highlights from Payton II’s strong outing can be seen in the video below:
The Rio Grande Valley Vipers are currently 15-9 on the season and will be back in action again on Friday night, when they take on the Texas Legends (11-9), the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA D-League affiliate team. The game will be televised live through “Facebook Live” on the NBA D-League’s official Facebook page.