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)
- 15.9 points per game; 40.0% FG; 37.6% 3PT; 51.9% True Shooting; 20.0 usage rate; 12.89 PER
*Statistical support provided by NBA.com
Follow Jack Winter on Twitter @armstrongwinter