Klay Thompson has had a decent, if quiet, year. He’s averaging fewer points per game than he has in four years, but his shooting efficiency, rebounding rate, and assist numbers are among the highest in his career. As usual, his stout defense is extremely valuable for the Warriors as well.
Klay has always been sort of a complementary scorer: he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to score, and his spacing helps his teammates find looks too. With Stephen Curry out due to injury for a few more weeks, Klay has to pick up more of the scoring duties alongside Kevin Durant.
Durant’s usage has skyrocketed without Stephen Curry, a change that has wrought mixed results. Durant is generally pretty efficient as a volume scorer, but many of the other Warriors have struggled finding their offensive rhythm during Steph’s absence. Unlike Curry, who makes his teammates more dangerous the moment he steps on the court, Durant hasn’t found a way to translate his offense into success for his teammates. In fact, the Warriors have lost all five games KD has scored forty or more points this season
This isn’t to say KD is a ballhog: he’s a good passer, and is lethal out of the pick and roll. But maybe the Warriors’ best offense without Steph doesn’t include a bunch of KD isolations.
Klay Thompson can help ease the offensive burden for KD. Of course, Thompson is one of the most difficult players in the league to guard offball, and can hit almost any shot with the tiniest amount of room. When he’s on, he’s on.
NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole laid out similar reasoning in an article earlier about Thompson’s big first quarter performance against the Phoenix Suns last night:
...there have been numerous occasions when the Warriors failed to take full advantage. He gets the ball early, and it becomes scarcer as the game goes on. It’s as if Thompson at times gets lost among the 10 players on the court.
Or his teammates aren’t looking hard enough.
The Warriors can’t allow that to happen now, not with Curry out. The key to getting the most out of their All-Stars is getting the most out of Thompson, checking his heat level early and, if hot, feeding him until his cries or defenses find a way to slow him.
While feeding Thompson is one approach, I think where Thompson can increase his aggressiveness is in his play near the basket. Right now, Thompson gets the majority of his shots a) working off the ball and b) without dribbling, which limits the number of opportunities he gets around the basket. Last night’s performance in Phoenix was a perfect example of that.
Last night @KlayThompson scored 22 points in the first quarter and finished with 34 to lead the @Warriors to a 117-100 win over the @Suns. Below are three of Klay's shot track charts: from the whole game, the first quarter, and the second quarter through fourth quarter pic.twitter.com/uIel0NrA7Z— Sportradar Insight (@RadarInsight) April 9, 2018
However, since opponents must respect his shooting ability, Thompson can also find open lanes to the rim and finish there with his length. Klay is shooting well near the hoop this season, but he hasn’t been drawing any fouls this season: getting a few trips to the free throw line will get him in rhythm and open up the rest of his game.
Klay has always had a little bit of trouble without Steph beside him, but he’s going to have to rise the occasion now. Getting him more good looks should be the offense’s first priority.
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