First of all, thank you for participating. I began this series months ago, during the offseason. The idea of this series is to alleviate massive amounts of boredom and to encourage some healthy Warriors-related basketball discussions by debating the merits of each one of the Warriors current assets, eliminating one asset per poll, from worst to first. Only guaranteed contracts and our 2015 first round pick are included. Most of our conversations at the time devolved into Kevin Love or Mark Jackson related arguments, and I imagined that this little thought-exercise would open up some different things to talk about during the dog days of summer. And while one poll saw as many as 772 votes, I'm afraid that we never even reached 40 comments in a thread. Our most recent poll has the least participation to date, with only 120 of our best and brightest minds willing to click their selection for "Least Valuable Remaining Asset", despite the fact that I waited almost two weeks to add the next installment.
Before we move on to the next cut, let's review where we are so far. We started with 14 players and a first round pick, totally 15 assets to be ranked. Here's the rankings so far. I've included the percentage of votes the assets received when they were ranked:
15) Nemanja Nedovic (58%)
14) Ognjen Kuzmic (77%)
13) Marreese Speights (61%)
12) Leandro Barbosa (46%)
11) Festus Ezeli (40%)
10) 2015 First Round Pick (48%)
9) Harrison Barnes (51%)
8) David Lee (43%)
7) Brandon Rush (86%)
6) Shaun Livingston (91%)
5) Draymond Green (68%)
4) Andre Iguodala (56%)
Which brings us up to date. Of the aforementioned 120 total votes, Klay Alexander Thompson received 63, good for 53%, and has been chosen as the #3 asset on the team this season. However, his contract says he is the most valuable player (per season) in franchise history.
My estimations of his new salary (14.7/15.9/17/18.1) were wrong, via Spotrac.com. Hoopshype hadn't listed the new contract yet. According to Hoopshype, Klay is actually set to receive $15,501,000 next season, the first of his new contract. This salary edges out the final season of David Lee's contract by $8,000. Here's the yearly salary of Klay's new contract:
$15.5/16.7/17.8/19... you have to add all the zeroes necessary yourselves to show that those are millions. No Warriors player in history has ever approached 19 million per season. Very few players in league history have, and even fewer have met the expectations that come with that level of compensation. Here's a list of the 20 current players who make more than $15.5/year:
Brook Lopez (15.7)
Russell Westbrook (15.7)
Kevin Love (15.7)
Paul George (15.8)
Marc Gasol (15.8)
Zach Randolph (16.5)
Carlos Boozer (16.8)
Blake Griffin (17.6)
Derrick Rose (18.7)
Rudy Gay (19.3)
Deron Williams (19.8)
Kevin Durant (20)
Chris Paul (20.1)
Chris Bosh (20.6)
Lebron James (20.6)
Dwight Howard (21.4)
Carmelo Anthony (22.5)
Joe Johnson (23.2)
Amare Stoudemire (23.4)
Kobe Bryant (23.5)
There are a few things that jump out at me when I look at this list. First, every player except for Rudy Gay has been an all star. All stars, former all stars, and MVP candidates every where you look. Second, only eight of the players are still with their original teams. Third, this is a who's who list of overpaid players and players that have missed serious (one or more seasons) time due to injury. And fourth, of the players listed, only Kobe and the Lebron/Bosh duo have championships. There's something to the old expression "never put all your eggs in one basket".
Of course, the salary cap is projected to jump significantly, making all of these numbers look like a bargain, or so I'm told. I just can't let a guy become the highest paid player in franchise history and not make a note of it. And given Klay's history of underachievement in the postseason, I think a little scrutiny is warranted. After all, much like the former civilization on Easter Island discovered after they built statues to celebrate the coming of Klay Thompson, resources ARE finite, and must be used wisely lest we become extinct ourselves.
Now, on to the player and how he's earned that generous income!
To understand how we got here, we first have to look at where we were. The 2010-11 Golden State Warriors had just finished their season with a 36-46 record under head coach Keith Smart. It was the inaugural season for the Joe Lacob and Peter Guber's new ownership group, and they didn't see the success from the team that they had envisioned despite the relative health of team stars Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, and David Lee. The last lottery pick, Ekpe Udoh, looked like a relative bust sandwiched between future stars Demarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe, so the ownership decided to bring team-building guru Jerry West into the fold as a consultant to help GM Larry Riley with what they hoped would be their last lottery pick, 11th overall in the 2011 draft.
By the time draft day came, The Logo had already made his intentions transparent. He was going to draft Klay Thompson. The Warriors already had diminutive, ball dominant guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry (and would add Nate Robinson at the start of the season), and wanted to add size to the backcourt, as well as a player who could thrive off-ball, coming off of screens and creating space with outside shooting. It would be newly hired head coach Mark Jackson's job to make the talented backcourt fire on all cylinders, which he assured the media he could do when he guaranteed a playoff spot for the team.
At 6'7", Klay Thompson had the size. Being the son of former Lakers championship sixth man Mychal Thompson, he also had an NBA pedigree and been around some of the best players in the world to help him develop his game. His outside shot was NBA ready, and his demeanor seemed cool and collected for a college player. Despite being scouted as a poor defender (due to an apparent lack of athleticism and foot speed), he seemed to be an ideal player to pair with either Ellis or Curry.
On June 23rd, 2011, Jerry West delivered on his promise to draft Thompson, but Klay had to wait until after the NBA lockout to finally make his debut in a Warriors uniform. On Christmas Day, 2011, Klay Thompson's NBA dream was finally realized in a 105-86 loss at Roaracle against the Clippers. Klay came off the bench and played 19 minutes. He got his first start on New Year's Eve, though it appeared to be a one night stand, and he went back to the bench for the next game. And the next three months, until March 13th, 2012, when the Warriors traded Ellis and Udoh, along with Kwame Brown, to the Milwaukee Bucks for injured center Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson.
Klay started the rest of the season, and while we didn't make the playoffs that season, opting rather to tank for the opportunity to save our draft pick, Klay found his way onto the NBA's All Rookie team. Klay's started every game of his career since that fateful trade, and he's missed just one game in his entire career (the lazy bum attended his grandfather's funeral March 14, 2014) and averaged 32.4 minutes per game. His on ball defense evolved from bad to passable, to good, to very good, and he's spent most of the last two seasons defending opponent's ball dominant guards. His DRtg has steadily improved, from a ghastly 117 as a rookie to a very respectable 100 so far this season.
Of course, defense isn't why the former Cougar was drafted. His scoring has increased in volume, efficiency, and variety. This season, Klay has increased his shot attempts from 21.9 last season to 23.5 this season, and upped his FTA from 3.2 all the way to 8.7! That's an extraordinary difference, and it's the biggest reason he's scoring at a per 36 rate of 25.5 points to go with a career high 3.6 assists per 36. Our very own Jared Stearne writes:
Yes, Klay is a phenomenal shooter, but it goes deeper than that. Klay is getting to the rim more frequently, and he's not settling for bad shots quite as often. Per basketball-reference, he's upped his field goal attempts inside of 10 feet from 22% a year ago to over 30% this year. Closer shots are better shots, right? And on the flip side, he's slashed the mid-range game from a 35% share to under 29%. Mid-range shots are the least valuable shots out there, since they're nearly as difficult as three-point attempts with only two-thirds the value. Cutting those out of his game and attacking the rim has upped his free throw rate, PER, True Shot percentage and points per game to all-star levels.
Klay seems to have come into his own, developing into a regular season star. If he can keep this performance up and remain consistent through the playoffs, the Splash Brothers might have a championship legacy to match his father's.
Which brings us to the next selection! Remember to consider skill, contract, injuries, need, and anything else you find valid in your reasoning. Also keep in mind that your vote is for the LEAST valuable asset TO THE WARRIORS. This time, pretty please, with sugar on top, voice the reason for your opinion in the comment thread following your vote, so that we can engage in a healthy debate. I certainly would love to read the reasoning behind the votes.
And thanks again for participating.