If I were to pose to you a question of who plays the better defense, between Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, what would your answer be? Mine would be Harrison Barnes. He’s bigger, stronger, more athletic and probably even has better footwork when guarding perimeter players. I’m not sure there is a single way that Klay is better than Barnes on that end.
But that’s okay. Klay gets more minutes than Barnes, not because of stalwart defense, but because he can shoot the basketball. On offense, he’s supposed to be much better than Harrison. But is he? Earlier in the year, I went into the ups and downs of Klay, and how volatile he’s really been on offense this year. It seems to come and go for him. Well, somewhere it’s really affected him is the 4th quarter.
This year, Klay has shot 28.7% in the 4th quarter. By comparison, his season totals are 42.4% overall. And Klay’s 4th quarters struggles aren’t based on just one shot location weakness. The truth is, he’s struggled to get it going from anywhere.
Looking at the shot chart above, Klay shoots the ball well from 2 locations in the 4th. 5-10 from right elbow in mid-range, and 4-11 from the right corner 3. Mostly, though, there’s just red. Lots and lots of red. Try looking at it from a couple other angles, and not much changes.
From 3, from 2, from in the paint, nothing looks good. Left side of the court? No. Middle of the court? No. Right side? Well, we get a little uptick, but certainly not the kind that suggests he’s having success there. So what’s wrong with Klay in the 4th quarter?
He’s doing just fine in the other 3 quarters, as you can see in the 3 charts above. His points per shot in those quarters are 1.1, 1.14, and 1.08, respectively. League average is a little under 1, so no issues whatsoever here. Is it really a lack of "clutch" ability? I’m not so sure, but I do know that a big part of being "clutch" is trusting yourself in stressful situations. Klay has had trouble doing that all season long. Whether it’s passing up good shots for bad ones, picking up his dribble at inopportune times, or throwing unsure passes, Klay has struggled to play well in the 4th quarter this year.
I think a lot of it stems from the early game vs Denver, when he got really down on himself. This wasn’t a problem last year. Granted, late game situations didn’t really present large amounts of stress, but still, his 4th quarter scoring rate was actually higher than it was in the 1st or 2nd quarters. But this year, it’s very different. He looks less free, like winning games has put so much more pressure on him. I don’t know if it’s at all a function of minutes played and him being more tired in the 4th, but it could be that, too.
But that, as well as his poor play lead me to my greater point. Harrison Barnes needs more minutes, especially late in games. I can no longer count on my hands the number of games Barnes has played well in and then not seen much floor time late in the game. Over and over again, Mark Jackson chooses to finish the game with Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack, and Thompson on the perimeter, whether Klay is playing well or not. Rarely does he change strategies and play Barnes down the stretch.
If there’s one criticism of Jackson I have this year (and this is probably the only major concern I’ve had with him all year), it’s his unflappable trust and faith in Klay Thompson. I think Klay is a pretty good player, too, but there is no reason he should be on the court in the 4th quarter as much as he is. The striking difference in minutes and opportunities (especially late in games) Barnes and Thompson have make little sense for two players having similar overall impacts on a team. Especially when the impact of Klay is so negative in the 4th quarter.
Though it’s a limited sample size, Barnes has been astonishingly good in the 4th quarter. Whether it’s defense he’s played against stars late in the game, rebounds he’s grabbed, or his aggressiveness to the rim, he’s been very successful where Klay Thompson hasn’t.
That’s Barnes in the 4th. On FG attempts, he’s averaging 1.2 points per shot. Klay’s total in the 4th Q? A soul-crushing 0.7 pps. So why isn’t Barnes playing more? Mark Jackson certainly speaks highly of him. Plenty of Warrior fans have clamored for more PT for the Black Falcon. But still he wastes away on the bench during crunch-time.
82games.com (granted, I’ve never really liked or trusted this site) posits that Klay plays 82% of the Warriors "clutch" minutes. For Barnes? Just 33%. Crazier, it also suggests that not one of Klay’s "clutch" baskets has been off the dribble. Each and every one, 100% of them, has been assisted. Barnes is at a still-high 80%, but Klay’s number is shocking.
I’ve been pushing all year for Barnes to play more minutes in the 4th quarter, especially in games that he is playing well in. It’s about time that the minutes differential between Klay and Harrison start to decrease, because clearly Klay is not getting the job done in the 4th quarter. It’s not that he won’t, or that he is forever "unclutch," but despite the Warriors success in maintaining leads late in games, Klay is hurting them with his poor decision making.
I doubt Barnes amazing 1.2 pps will maintain if he starts playing more minutes in the 4th, but I also doubt we’ll see it dip to Klay’s lowly 0.7, so I think it’s time to try something new. I just want to see the Warriors win, and I think Barnes gives them the best chance to do that in the 4th. At the minimum, I’d like to see he and Klay split time in the 4th.