December 28th: “…[Klay Thompson]’s been a flat-out disappointment this season and the statistics – both raw and advanced – bear that out.”
January 8th: “Thompson’s individual effectiveness is limited to when he’s on the floor without Steph Curry.”
Well that was depressing. Twice taking an objective look at Klay Thompson in the last six weeks, I came away unimpressed with his play this season and questioned just how good he could become as a Warrior.
The December article was more optimistic and rightfully so. Thompson is prone to stretches of inconsistency like any other shooter, and he deserved some leeway early in the year as he found his role within Golden State’s offense. It made sense to assume he’d eventually come around, delivering on the promise he showed last spring and over the summer. Thompson’s 2012-2013 was disappointing but hardly lost.
Just under two weeks later, digging deeper into the numbers, there was a major reason for concern. On/off-court analysis made it clear Thompson was a far superior player when Curry was on the bench. Considering the latter’s worth, if the organization eventually had to make a choice between them it was obvious Curry would be the answer. And even if the situation never became that dire, it made sense to assume Thompson’s playing time would decrease as 2013 wore on if he couldn’t perform in Curry’s backcourt.
Now into February, one thing stands out above all else: Thompson read both articles, was fueled by the constructive criticism and has used it to play his best basketball of the season. That’s probably a stretch – this is just a blog and those were just words, after all – but what isn’t is his major, major improvement since just before the new year. And best off all, it’s played out with respect to his overall individual numbers and those accumulated when he’s playing with Curry.
Since January 29th, Thompson has averaged 18.3 points per game on 45.2% shooting from the field and 40.7% on three-pointers, numbers that dwarf those compiled before that fateful article was posted the day before; the same scoring and shooting splits at that point were 15.9/40.0%/37.6%. Even better, his true shooting percentage is up 6.2 points to a blistering 58.1%.
It’s not all glowing, though; Thompson still isn’t showing the varied offensive game we thought he would this season. His usage rate is pretty much stagnant, having risen just two-tenths of a point since January 29th. In fact, across the board his usage numbers and shot locations have barely changed since the January 29th split. Now, Thompson’s just shooting the ball like we always knew he could. It’s safe to assume we won’t see much off-the-dribble or playmaking development for the rest of this season, but the stark change in his efficiency numbers over the last six weeks or so is reason enough for optimism going forward.
Then there’s the Curry aspect. Let’s let screenshots do the talking (click to enlarge the images).
Up to January 29th:
Since January 29th:
It should be noted that Thompson played four full games without Curry in the month of January. He really struggled in the first two against Miami and San Antonio, but put together his best back-to-back of the season last week in wins over Cleveland and Dallas, combining for 59 points on 24-42 (57.1%) FGs and 9-15 (60.0%) 3PTs. But success with Curry on the bench was to be expected given the results of the season’s first 10 weeks. It’s what he’s done alongside the should-be All-Star that’s worth encouragement.
Thompson’s shooting numbers are virtually identical whether he’s played with Curry or not since January 29th, especially impressive considering the blistering pace he set with those breakout performances against the Cavaliers and Mavericks to better a smallish sample size. The same applies for basic scoring; he’s averaging 21.3 points/36 minutes without Curry since the split and 17.2 points/36 minutes when Curry’s on the floor, but those huge nights inflate the latter mark. What’s noteworthy is how the new number with Curry relates to the old one, and it’s another feather in Thompson’s cap: he’s scoring 1.4 points per 36 minutes more now than he was back then.
Of course, this is all a roundabout way of saying Thompson is playing much, much better of late. Whether his early struggles were a fluke and his initial numbers concerning Curry were a statistical anomaly remains to be seen, but at this point each slant is trending up. And not coincidentally, so is the Warriors’ outlook as spring fast approaches.
Statistical support for this article provided by NBA.com.
Follow Jack Winter on Twitter @armstrongwinter.