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Klay Thompson’s Quiet Struggles Reviewed by Momizat on . Almost three months into the season, the Warriors are a surprising 19-10 without Andrew Bogut and the league has taken notice.  Stephen Curry and David Lee are Almost three months into the season, the Warriors are a surprising 19-10 without Andrew Bogut and the league has taken notice.  Stephen Curry and David Lee are Rating:
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Klay Thompson’s Quiet Struggles

Almost three months into the season, the Warriors are a surprising 19-10 without Andrew Bogut and the league has taken notice.  Stephen Curry and David Lee are likely All-Star selections, Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack are legitimate candidates for Sixth Man of the Year, and Harrison Barnes’ huge dunk over Nikola Pekovic in mid-November is a staple of every to-date, league-wide highlight reel.

Life is good for the faithful citizens of ‘Dubs Nation, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t continue to be the case as the season wears on into the new year.  Bogut will be back eventually, and simply swapping him with rookie Festus Ezeli in Golden State’s rotation will be a major boon on both ends of the floor.  And considering Bogut’s reputation as a near-elite two-way center, it’s easy to imagine he’ll do much more than that for Golden State, too.

But there’s a non-Aussie reason we should go into 2013 feeling this same sense of optimism for the long-haul, and it’s an on-court development that has received little attention due to the team’s hot start overall.  Second-year shooting guard Klay Thompson, voted “most likely player to breakout” in a poll surveying the league’s 30 general managers, has done anything but so far in 2012, and even underperformed compared to his rookie season numbers.

If you’d have polled the same group’s reaction to Golden State being where they are – fifth in a loaded Western Conference – with 2013 just three days, you’d have been met with raised eyebrows.  Without Bogut? Mouths agape.  With Bogut plus a struggling Thompson? Mass fainting.

If there was going to be a tide-turn in the Bay it was going to be this season and we knew that as early as last summer.  With heady, talented veterans Bogut, Landry, and Jack joining Curry and Lee (and the since-injured Brandon Rush), this team had as much balance and skill as the organization had seen this millennium.  But so much of that hope hinged on Thompson, as well, and his rare skills as a 6’7”, sweet-shooting wing with underrated athleticism and a developing off-the-dribble game.

So that the Warriors have enjoyed such success isn’t just a huge testament to the play of the esteemed Curry-Lee-Jack-Landry quartet, but an almost shocking development due to Thompson’s quiet struggles.  A big game here or there not withstanding, he’s been a flat-out disappointment thus far and the statistics – raw and advanced – bear that out.

Before the season started, I profiled the changes and improvements Thompson made to his game last year after Monta Ellis was sent packing.  His role and responsibility increased twofold, there was a clear, basic takeaway: Thompson’s shot-making prowess and growing comfort as a creator off the bounce made him a potential star, and a highly efficient one at that.  But we haven’t seen that player consistently this season.  Take a look at the numbers.

  • 2012 Post-Ellis Trade
    • 18.6 points per game; 44.2% FG; 38.8% 3PT; 53.8% true shooting; 23.8 usage rate; 14.97 PER (year-long number)
  • 2012-2013
    • 15.9 points per game; 40.0% FG; 37.6% 3PT; 51.9% True Shooting; 20.0 usage rate; 12.89 PER
Basketball isn’t about assumptions based on all of the game’s moving parts, but expecting better play from Thompson so far this season – even with Golden State’s major roster turnover – is hardly a stretch.  He’s underperformed by any objective measure and it really isn’t close.  He was clearly superior in the final third of last season compared to now, and there’s an argument to be made he was better his rookie season as a whole, too.  Considering the underwhelming nature to the very beginnings of his professional career back in fall/winter 2011, that is certainly indicative of his poor play.
The silver lining is that Thompson has shown us before he’s capable of extreme in-season improvement.  And given the natural progression based on time and his relative inexperience, it’s fair to say he’s a more talented player now than he was even last spring.  It’s likely, then, that he’ll come around and more closely align with the breakout player the league’s best basketball minds foresaw.  That Thompson hasn’t yet, though, shouldn’t go overlooked, because it’s yet another reason why Golden State is primed for continued success this season and in those coming.

*Statistical support provided by NBA.com

Follow Jack Winter on Twitter @armstrongwinter

 

About The Author

Jack Winter is a 24 year-old Bay Area import. Having grown up in Kansas City without an NBA team to root for, his Warriors fandom is complicated. He loves help defense, extra passes, and the additional efficiency of corner three-pointers. After recently relocating from San Francisco to Oakland, he's an avid and tireless defender of the East Bay. He contributes to ESPN TrueHoop sites Hardwood Paroxysm, Magic Basketball, and HoopChalk, and encourages you to reach him via Twitter (@armstrongwinter) or e-mail (john.armstrong.winter@gmail.com).

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