The buzz in the Pacific Northwest about Washington State guard Klay Thompson early in the 2010-11 NCAA basketball season was not about him merely being a really good spot-up shooter.
As he continued to get better reading defenses and working off screens, he became even more effective scoring without the ball, which DraftExpress Director of Scouting Joseph Treutlein suggested in a pre-draft evaluation will make his transition to the NBA even easier.
DraftExpress: Finding a Niche For: Klay Thompson
With many volume shooters entering the NBA, there is a large change in role in terms of how often the ball is in their hands or what types of shots they're getting, but if he lands in a good situation, Thompson's only adjustment will be the number of shots he takes, not the type. Any up-tempo team would be a good fit, though he could excel just as easily in a half court-oriented team with a lot of screening and ball movement.
Yet even more impressive was everything else that he was doing beyond scoring.
Growing increasingly comfortable with putting the ball on the floor since his freshman year, the 6'7" junior was not only a knockdown shooter, but a more confident ball handler making him one of the Pac-10's most dynamic offensive threats. And as Craig Powers of SBN's Washington State site CougCenter notes, the threat he posed with his newfound ball handling confidence was not only as a scorer but as a distributor.
2011 NBA DRAFT RESULTS: Klay Thompson Selected By The Golden State Warriors - CougCenter
During his junior campaign, Klay was relied upon to be not only the primary scorer, but the primary distributor as well. After posting a 15.4 assist rate to go along with a 19.1 turnover rate his sophomore season, Thompson improved upon both numbers with a 24.8 assist rate and 17.6 turnover rate. All the while taking more shots.
So what the Warriors are getting in Thompson is not a one-dimensional college shooter, but a player whose game has steadily expanded and has room for growth as he gets stronger and even more confident. And when figuring out how he fits with the Warriors, the hard work that went into his steady improvement is as important as anything else we say about his game.
When considering the Golden State Warriors' insistence on keeping the current backcourt of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis intact, the fact that Thompson is probably a more well-rounded player than people give him credit for becomes even more important. He's a player that will be able to mesh well with the team in the half court and transition games and has shown the ability to read defenses and teammates in a way that allows him to seamlessly alternate between scorer and distributor.
And of course, with that three point shooting ability and ability to play off the ball, he potentially makes the Warriors an even tougher team to defend by putting one more player on the court who defenses will have to think twice about before helping off of.
We'll have plenty of time - possibly too long with the prospect of a lockout - to discuss the obvious concerns about Thompson's defense. And for a defensively challenged team, there were certainly better options out there for the taking that could have filled that void. I definitely wanted those options.
I'm not even trying to convince you to like this pick - I can't say for sure that this pick translates to more wins. But as someone who has lived in Seattle and watched him torch the Washington Huskies a few times this season, we should at least understand who exactly this player is and what he actually offers before ripping him to shreds. We can all acknowledge this: Klay Thompson is a talented player and probably one of the best available in a draft lacking star power, regardless of who we might have hoped for instead.
So now we can sit and hope for exactly what we hope for just about off-season: more size, more defense, some semblance of a balanced basketball team through some combination of creative trades and free agency.
And at some point, we're going to have to take all that excitement we had about Jerry West coming on and Trust The Logo.