Klay Thompson: A Lifetime Pure Shooter Or Budding Scorer?


Mar 14, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) is defended by Boston Celtics small forward Mickael Pietrus (28) during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. Boston defeated Golden State 105-103. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

Klay Thompson will enter his third year as a Golden State Warrior, and the young swingman has had some spectacular highs and some difficult lows in his short career, often both in the same game (for example, he followed his 29-point first half against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals with a five-point output in the second half).

Thompson has clearly demonstrated himself as a sharpshooter, but will he be able to expand his game to another dimension? The answer to the question above will largely be decided by his performance in these next few seasons.

To some, the difference between a scorer and a shooter isn’t that clear–“Shooters score. Duh.” Although that is technically correct, I use scorer in the sense that a player is able to score from many places on the court. For example, Carmelo Anthony is a scorer, as he is able to score consistently from anywhere from the rim to the three-point line (though I wouldn’t trust his three-point shooting from the left corner). An example of a shooter would be someone like Anthony Morrow, a player who shoots better from beyond the three-point line, 37.2 percent, than from less than 10 feet from the basket, where he shoots 30 percent.

Jan 29, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (left) shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller (40) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

So to summarize, a scorer can be a shooter, but a shooter can’t necessarily be a scorer, under my definitions.

As of now, Thompson is firmly rooted in the Morrow camp. The Washington State University product shot a paltry 29.4 percent on shots greater than three feet but within 10 feet of the rim this last season. Compare that to his 40.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc, and it seemingly defies logic.

How can Thompson miss shots so close to the rim yet manage to nail 24 foot plus jumpers? There is one major answer, and they could be the key to making him go from being just a shooter to a scorer.

The major impediment to Thompson being able to score in that zone is his infamous layup or “Klay-up.” He hit just 55.6 of his 187 lay-up attempts. Compare that to another guard known for his sharpshooting in J.J. Redick, who hit 65.4 percent of his 136 attempts. Redick is three inches shorter than Thompson, yet manages to make nearly 10 percent more of his attempts.

Thompson’s attempts look awkward, as if he doesn’t know how to position his arms or his body. Perhaps a crash course in layup form will assist the guard. If Thompson develops a reliable layup and adds some credibility to his drives to the hoop, the Warriors’ offense will benefit because he will force defenders to crowd him as he makes his way to the paint, opening up the floor.

With a big frame for a two-guard, Thompson could finally exploit some of his matchup advantages. He could bully defenders and gain ground for an easy shot. If he learns how to convert as smoothly within the paint as from downtown, he will go down as not just a sniper from beyond the arc, but a capable scorer.