If the Golden State Warriors are going to be among the championship contenders next season, they will need Klay Thompson to play at a similar level as he was before injuring his knee during Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals.
With the season tipping off on Dec. 22, Thompson will not have played an NBA game in a little more than 18 months. He would miss the 2019-20 season rehabbing his torn ACL, but the pandemic gave him a few more months to fully recover.
There have been 108 NBA players who tore their ACL, and looking over the list, there were eight who played the 2 or 3, but most of those injuries came a long time ago, and advances in medicine have made the surgery less lethal to the career of NBA players.
Thompson has averaged 19.5 points over his eight-year career while shooting 41.9% from the 3-point line. The five-time All-Star’s game isn’t built off of his athleticism, although we have seen Thompson display a high level of it throughout his time in the NBA. Thompson’s shooting and basketball IQ are off the charts, so I do not expect his offensive game to fall off a cliff, as we saw with players such as Michael Redd.
The concern with Thompson is how the injury impacts his defensive abilities. The 30-year-old was one of the best perimeter defenders in the league before he got hurt and often guarded the opposing team’s best player.
Former NBA guard Speedy Claxton tore his ACL and missed his entire rookie season. He explained what the recovery process was like to Hoops Rumors:
“You probably start to feel like your old self a year and a half after the injury. The mental aspect of it is the toughest, It’s a long, grueling rehab process and you don’t know if you’re ever going to be the same.
My quickness came back, but my athleticism didn’t come back to where it was,” Claxton said. “But it wasn’t like what it was before the injury.”
On the flip side, players like Danillo Gallinari and Zach LaVine have played at a level similar to where they were before the injury. Gallinari’s numbers dipped across the board his first year back but immensely improved in his second season after the injury. LaVine’s stats had a similar trajectory.
I expect Thompson’s scoring numbers to go down slightly next season, but that is mainly due to the fact that Kerr will watch his minutes, especially early in the schedule. Thompson averaged 21.5 points per game in 2018-19. I think he will be in the 18-to-19 point per game range in 2020-21.
Golden State acquired Andrew Wiggins, and if it can unlock his defensive potential, it will take some pressure off Thompson. If the Warriors can add another 3-and-D wing this offseason, Thompson can focus more on being the scorer we are all accustomed to seeing.
What are your expectations for Klay next season?