Milwaukee Bucks who would have thrived in their prime – Gary Payton
Bringing up the wild Gary Payton trade always reopens a closed wound for Milwaukee Bucks fans. Of course, the Bucks acquired Payton at the 2003 NBA Trade Deadline, having sent franchise star Ray Allen to the Seattle Supersonics. Months later, Payton signed with the Los Angeles Lakers to join forces with NBA legends Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, making this deal even worse.
Payton was actually pretty good for the Bucks in his very brief stint. He averaged 19.6 points, 7.4 assists, and 1.4 steals in 28 regular season games and played a key part in the Bucks challenging the eventual Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Nets in a six-game first-round matchup. Yet, at 34 years old, Payton was just a tick past his prime and steadily declined after that season.
In his prime, Payton was one of the best defenders of all time. He’s one of the few guards to ever win the Defensive Player of the Year award, including Michael Jordan and Marcus Smart, and has nine All-Defensive nods under his belt. He was also an electric scorer, having averaged 20.1 points per game between 1992-2003. A top-75 player ever certainly would have helped this team.
Oh, what could have been.