Klay Thompson is one of the best shooting guards in the league and he’s only 24 years old. He has one of the best three point shots in the league and is one of the better defenders at his position.
That is why when the Minnesota Timberwolves were gauging the Warriors’ interest in acquiring the superstar forward, they insisted Klay Thompson be part of the deal. They saw the same potential in Thompson the Warriors have seen for years now.
But the Warriors were hard-set on not giving up Thompson in any deal because of that potential, and so the Kevin Love deal fell through and the rest is history. The trade talks combined with Klay’s play and the weakness around the league at his position gave him the leverage needed for a huge extension.
Thompson signed a maximum extension over the weekend and if the first three games of the season are going to be any indication of what he can be, he’ll be worth every penny.
Thompson is currently leading the league in scoring with 29.7 points per game on 18 shots. He’s shooting 53% from the field and only 62% of his field goals are being assisted on rather than the 72% mark he had last season.
The Warriors’ new offense is one that features lots of player movement and ball movement. The team has assisted in 63% of their field goals made early in this season. The ball moves more crisply and guys like Thompson are freed up for easier shots under Steve Kerr.
That is evident by Thompson’s shot chart so far through this season. Thompson is capitalizing on all new areas of the floor that he just never got the chance to under Mark Jackson. Jackson tried to use Thompson’s size against smaller two guards in isolation situations last season. That resulted in a lot of shots coming from the middle of the floor.
In the 2013-14 season, 30% of Thompson’s shots came from the midrange area. Meanwhile, just under 16% of his shots came at the rim. That is because, in isolation situations, Thompson is not a consistently good option.
Now take a look at his shot distribution from this season. The difference in shot location here is stark.
Klay sees about a 10 percent decrease in shots taking from the midrange area of the floor. He is not being asked to create his own offense from that area. Instead, he’s running around the floor and coming off of screens to get shots in the best areas of the floor.
What is more important than the midrange decrease is the increase of shots around the rim. Thompson sees a 12.2 percent increase in the shots he is taking around the rim. Should that persist, Thompson will become a much more efficient player than he has been in years past.
We should not expect Thompson to continue to produce at this level. He is one of the elite shooters at the rim and has always been great when running off of screens, but defenses will start to key in on him more and do things like bump him off of his routes and obstruct his path to where they want him to go.
That comes at a cost for the defense, however, and it will still benefit the Warriors’ offense at the end of the day. As long as Thompson keeps trying to get shots from the three point arc and at the rim, he’ll continue to be one of the better offensive players in the league even without being able to create a bulk of his offense off of the dribble.
He does not need to. He is already playing with one of the best point guards in the league in Stephen Curry. Kerr’s offense does not necessarily require a secondary ball handler that needs to penetrate the defense, and Iguodala has filled that role beautifully so far this season.
Right now, Thompson is filling the mold Kerr wants him to and he’s doing a great job of it. He has been mainly a catch and shoot player, and there is nothing wrong with that. He has an 60.5 effective field goal percentage off of catch and shoot shots according to NBA.com’s stats tool.
On 48% of Thompson’s shots, he does not take a dribble. On shots where he does not take a dribble, he has an eFG percentage of 67.3%. Those numbers will likely come down as the season progresses, but Thompson not having to put the ball on the floor and create for himself so much is the best strategy to move forward with.
The Warriors’ backcourt has been spectacular throughout the first three games of the season and Thompson has a lot to do with that. If he continues his play and is one of the top ten scorers in the league this season, we could be talking about the Warriors in late May and early June.