Golden State Warriors: How Klay Thompson Can Elevate His Defense

May 10, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) battles to maintain possession between Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) and power forward Carl Landry (7) during the third quarter of game three of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

When Klay Thompson was drafted 11th overall by the Warriors in 2011, he was known mostly for his play on the offensive side of the ball.  In fact, his shooting is still his most well known skill. However, this past season, Thompson showed vast improvements on defense.  His length allowed him to lock down some high scoring players.  Even so, Thompson has a lot to learn before he can call himself an elite defender. He is only going into his third season, so he still has plenty of room to grow as a player.  .  Here are five things Thompson must do if he wants to take his game to the next level.

Gain a Reputation

Thompson still isn’t known to be a lock down defender.  He has shown the ability at times and often guarded the opponent’s best guard, but the media continues to be stymied by his shooting ability. Thompson needs to play big on a big stage; he needs to do something along the lines of what Stephen Curry did in Madison Square Garden.  If he can shut down a big name player during a big game, people will start talking about his defensive ability. Reputation can also help a player during games.  Some players who are known as “tough” or “scrappy” defenders are able to get away with rougher defense.  As it stands, Thompson gets whistled for a foul when players like James Harden or Kobe Bryant are looking for contact. It’s similar to a player getting “superstar calls” on offense.

Become a Better Shot Blocker

At 6’7”, Thompson has plenty of length for a shooting guard.  He is going to be able to match up well with pretty much any other guard in the league. Thompson is already very good at using his length to keep his man in front of him and force tough shots, but he doesn’t regularly block shots.  Thompson averaged .5 blocks per game last season, which isn’t bad for a guard. Guards don’t block many shots – that’s a job for big men.  Even so, if Thompson wants to take his game to the elite level, he can work on becoming a better shot blocker. Blocking shots can lead to more foul calls, but a good shot blocker at the guard position is very valuable.  Thompson shouldn’t be content with forcing tough shots; he should focus on making sure his man can’t even get a shot off. Contested shots still have a chance of going in and many players in the league are crafty scorers.  Elite defenders should look to erase as many shots as possible.

Disrupt the Opponent’s Offense

Thompson has shown the ability to shut down his own man, but he can still do better to disrupt the opposition’s offense as a whole.  Individually, the best thing a defender can do is take his man out of the play. Taking a good player out of an offense is certainly disruptive, but there are still four other players that can score for the other team.  Elite defenders know that help defense is key in slowing down an offense. Thompson can do a lot more when it comes to providing help defense.  Intelligence can take a player far in the NBA and knowing what an opponent wants to do can help more than most people realize. Thompson must work on sitting in an opponent’s passing lanes.  Knowing where to be can lead to steals and forcing turnovers is huge for a defense.If Thompson is able to find a way to be disruptive to multiple players, his value on defense goes way up.

May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) controls the ball against Denver Nuggets shooting guard Andre Iguodala (9) during the third quarter of game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Learn from Andre Iguodala

Thompson now has another great defender to play and practice with every day.  Iguodala is a veteran and one of the best wing defenders in the NBA.  If Thompson is smart, he will become Iguodala’s shadow during practices this season.Physical tools can only take a player so far.  Thompson has learned how to use his length, but defense is more about discipline and technique than talent.  Iguodala has the experience Thompson lacks, so he could probably offer plenty of advice to Thompson.Iguodala didn’t become the player he is today just by showing up to games; he had to learn and put in countless hours of work.  If Thompson wants the same success, he is going to have to go through the same process – and it will take some time.

Become a Better Rebounder

I mentioned earlier how important Thompson’s length is.  When it comes to rebounding, length and size is even more important.  Rebounding, much like shot blocking, is usually associated with big men. But Thompson isn’t a little guy.  He has plenty of size for a guard and is even big enough to fight small forwards for rebounds.  Besides, technique and intensity are important when it comes to rebounding (Right, Dennis Rodman?).

Thompson averaged 3.7 rebounds per game last season.  Teammate – and point guard – Stephen Curry averaged 4 rebounds per game.  Obviously there is room for improvement.People might not see the connection between defense and rebounding, but defensive rebounds mean fewer possessions for opponents.  If Thompson can learn to crash the boards better, he will automatically become a better defender.

Defense isn’t as flashy and attractive as offense is and, often times, great defenders can go unnoticed in the NBA.  Even so, defense is half of the game of basketball and elite defenders will always be in demand. Klay Thompson has become an impressive defender, but there are many things he can still do to increase his impact.  His defense may never overshadow his shooting ability, but it has the potential to be just as important.

Topics: 2012-13 Preview, Golden State Warriors, Klay Thompson

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  • Federico Rocha

    Agree with everything but the shot blocking. Shot blockers get in the air by nature which is not something we are looking for from perimeter defenders. I prefer him to stay grounded and use his length. Although body sees him as an elite defender I think the playoff run helped him as he was tagged to play against the opposing teams best scorers and really held his own. He is at least known as a defender now, something that he wasn’t known for at the beginning of the season so hopefully that helps him take the next step. Of course we can bank on Jackson coming out this year saying Klay should make the all defensive team, etc. just as he bragged up Curry last year.

  • Alec Safreno

    Honestly, Klay’s fine on defense. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to get better but right now, Klay has made huge leaps from his rookie year and is well on his way to becoming a great two way player.

    He’s shut down Harden during their last two match ups holding him 3-17 the first game and 6-16 the second. Then on the national stage he shut down Tony Parker until he fouled out. If anything that’s really all he should focus on improving next year, limiting his fouls.

    My hope is Klay spent the summer, working just as hard as he last summer working on defense, on ball handling, getting into the lane, and finishing or drawing contact. Its the biggest hole in his game and one he can improve on.

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