In his sophomore season in the NBA, Klay Thompson is well-known around the league now for his three-point shooting. Being a part of the “Splash Brothers” duo in Golden State, head coach Mark Jackson dubbed Thompson and Stephen Curry as the best shooting backcourt in history.
When drafted with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Thompson’s maximum potential was to be as good as Marco Belinelli, according to NBADraft.net. As he proved this past season, Thompson looks to exceed that expectation of being just a shooter. He has developed a nice all-around game in each category that ranges from scoring to rebounding and defending.
Thompson’s game is progressing very well and expectations are rising for him. Can he live up to our expectations, though?
When the Warriors drafted Thompson, they did not expect him to be a defensive stopper. After the season-ending injury to Brandon Rush, Thompson stepped into the role confidently.
During the playoffs, Thompson was assigned to guard Ty Lawson, who is the Denver Nuggets’ biggest offensive threat. He guarded Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs. After shooting 8-for-9 from beyond the arc in Game 2 against the Spurs, Thompson chose to speak about his defensive game rather than his shooting (via the San Jose Mercury News).
“[M]y defense was always there. I haven’t really been focusing on my offense, because I’ve been trying to be as consistent as possible on the defensive end.”
Becoming a defensive-minded player, Thompson finds it “fun to try and shut someone down.” He effectively did so throughout his second season with the Warriors. During a three-game stretch in the regular season, Thompson held James Harden, Monta Ellis and Carmelo Anthony to a combined shooting of 17-for-47.
Along with his defense, Thompson also talked about rebounding.
After grabbing 2.4 rebounds per game in his debut season, Thompson improved his rebounding by 1.3 rebounds per game in 2012-13. Improving 1.3 rebounds per game is impressive for a guard, especially playing alongside David Lee and Andrew Bogut.
The most notable night in rebounding was Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, as Thompson posted career numbers with 14 rebounds.
Thompson mainly uses his athleticism to pursue to missed shots. His quickness also allows him to get rebounds.
Prior to stepping onto the NBA court, scouts pointed out Thompson’s lack of elite athleticism at the collegiate level. Specifically, scouts argued that he is just a half-court player and fast breaks may expose his poor athletic abilities.
Here we can see that Thompson can run and operate in the open floor. Also, a right-handed player he is, he attacked the rim and finished with his weak hand.
Thompson’s scoring ability evolved from perimeter shooting to all-around scoring. Since he was drafted, his athleticism has improved, which compliments his ability to create shots off the dribble and attack the basket. He converts 51.3 percent of his shots when he drives to the basket.
There are some downsides to his game.
After scoring 34 points and 14 rebounds in Game 2 against the Spurs, Thompson was unable to replicate anything close to those numbers. He averaged just 10.3 points on 33.9 percent shooting and 3.5 rebounds per game for the last four games in the series.
What do the numbers mean?
Given the green light after his dominating performance, he attempted 53 field goals but only connected on 16 of them. The Spurs were focused on shutting down Thompson, and they succeeded by not allowing him to get hot. If opposing teams make him their primary focus, can the streaky shooter find consistency in his scoring?
For being just 23 years old, the young Thompson shows maturity through his quiet and focus demeanor. His calm state of mind blocks out any possible distractions to his game. He shoots 85.1 percent from the free throw line, which reflects on his mentality. Even the more experienced players do not intimidate him.
Thus far, Thompson’s overall improvement has him exceeding all expectations of when the Warriors drafted him in 2011. Owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers have faith in Thompson’s future. They traded away Ellis to give Thompson more minutes on the court. Expectations are getting higher, but Thompson is not disappointing anybody with his play.