Another game, another strong performance from Klay Thompson. Jerry West’s guy went 4-6 against the Suns, 5-10 against Houston, and 8-11 against Denver. The kid’s showing out.
Klay Thompson came out of school with a dubious statistical resume. Beautiful as his jumper flew, deft as his use of screens was, he never shot over 40% from behind the college arc. Shooting defined his NBA appeal, so this was a concern.
The season started off poorly for Klay, worse than the awful numbers indicated. He chucked 20% in his first four games, all the while “looking lost,” as the saying goes. Many of these jumpers weren’t even close. He would hurl tries over the rim, like man returning fire in a frenzied snowball fight. During bad games, he would give the ball up while somehow simultaneously projecting the combination of “nervous” and “dejected.” Thompson soon received the dreaded a consensus, “He’s not ready tag,” a phrase that’s usually code for, “He never will be.”
And yet he played. And played. And played. Thompson never had a stint of over 30 minutes, but he also never had a stint less than eight. The run has been steady, rarely deviating much from his 16.7 minute average. He looks like a different player now, splashing jumpers at key moments. At a .470 FG % and .493% three point mark, the kid is displaying some considerable shooting talent. But his defense is even better, an uncanny quality for a rookie.
It is possible that Klay’s learning curve is a mirage, that he would have eventually played well without consistent minutes. I doubt that, though. Consistent experience is important for building expertise at any job. Without steady run, I’d hazard that Thompson’s learning curve would have bounced and lurched about like Jeremy Lin’s had a year before. And perhaps we’d think Klay talentless.
A narrative surrounding Lin is, “How could everybody have missed on this guy?” Let me disabuse new Lin observers of the notion that JL was some gleaming presence that no one dared look at. He had immense flaws, flaws that were ironed out after hours upon hours of D-League experience and practice time.
“Time” is key here, though New York’s pick and roll system probably accentuated Jeremy’s natural skills. Lin simply had no time to learn on the job, mostly because Keith Smart (correctly) feared losing his job. There were pressures beyond overlooking some guy because he went to Harvard and hailed from a different sort of ancestor.
To better develop young players, a team must sacrifice games. Jackson insists that he isn’t doing that with Klay Thompson, that Klay is the coach’s best option in those minutes. I am inclined to believe him, because rookie PG Charles Jenkins rarely sees the court. But what if Jenkins is the next Lin?