Klay Thompson

Sports Illustrated’s Point Forward recently ranked the top 100 players in the NBA heading into the 2013-14 season and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors made the cut.

The sharpshooter is listed at 89 in a ranking that seems peculiar at first. One might be tempted to believe Thompson is perhaps a little better and thus should come in somewhere around the mid-70s.

After all, the Warriors’ starting 2-guard did convert 40.1 percent of his treys in 2012-13 and should expect to replicate that in the ensuing season. Furthermore, Thompson was a good defender in his sophomore season and helped harass some of the league’s best wing scorers.

So what gives? Well for one, there are other players in the league that fill Thompson’s role and they happen to do it better. The second half of the Splash Brothers owned the 40th best PER in the NBA among shooting guards and the S.I. rankings reflect that.

Indeed, ranked ahead of Thompson are the likes of Vince Carter (86), J.R. Smith (83), J.J. Redick (82), O.J. Mayo (77), Jamal Crawford (76), Kevin Martin (73) and Monta Ellis (68) to name a few.

Save for Ellis, all of the previously mentioned guards played less minutes on average than Thompson and yet managed the same level of productivity if not better. The Warriors’ shooting guard was not a very good rebounder nor was he a good playmaker in 2012-13.

That is all subject to change going forward, but the shooting guards listed ahead of him in the S.I. top 100 are all superior in at least one of those aspects. The one player that is not (Martin), was simply better at doing splashy things than Thompson in 2012-13.

The new member of Minnesota Timberwolves was better at converting shots from the field overall and also from downtown. Thus, when comparing Thompson to the rest of the league (even without considering other players at other positions), his ranking makes perfect sense.

The top-100 listing is not reserved for all, hence it should be seen as an honor and accomplishment that he made it. There are things Thompson can do to improve as a player and consequently rank higher in future lists.

Harrison Barnes over the summer worked on bulking up a little in anticipation of playing in more small-ball lineups in 2013-14. Thompson probably should have followed suit because the Warriors will need him to hit the boards like never before.

Getting stronger will allow him to mix it up with the bigger players and come out of traffic with rebounds.

Another area where Thompson can get better is his offensive discipline. He has a tendency to chase shots and it results in him taking some incredibly difficult jumpers with defenders hanging all over him.

He is one of those players that looks to put it up by any means necessary if he has not attempted a field goal in a while. That tendency results in him missing some of his open teammates on occasion and also makes it easier for teams to defend him when he comes off screens.

Every now and then, Thompson will surprise defenders and hit the open man after curling off a screen, but those instances are fairly rare. His best bet might be to lock himself into a room with footage of Ray Allen during his days with the Boston Celtics and Rip Hamilton in his Detroit Pistons days.

Both players were simply sensational in this setting and thus made it incredibly difficult for teams to trap them when they received the ball coming off screens. They were not great passers, but were good enough to keep defenses honest. Watch below as Allen comes off the screen and feeds an open Kevin Garnett during the 2012 playoffs:

The threat of the pass is a beautiful thing because it also allows a great shooter to run through screens and get open whereas other players who are not good passers are not afforded with that luxury. Allen gets a clean look in the video below against the Miami Heat because of the location of the screen (Garnett is isolated one side of the floor where the help defender would not recover in time if he were to get open for a jumper) and also because Dwyane Wade gets hung up in the pick:

That is great execution from both the screener and the shooter. But when you are really good, you can play tricks on some defenders. In this last video, Allen realizes where the trap is coming from and simply reverses course and runs to the corner and gets a beautiful look from downtown:

That is how one becomes the most prolific 3-point shooter of all time. Thompson is obviously not yet on the same level of Allen, but these are things he can look at on tape and then put into practice. It will allow him to become a better overall player and also afford him with some great looks from downtown where he is money.

It will be interesting to see how Thompson performs in 2013-14 and whether that gets his overall rank upgraded.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at JM.Poulard@Warriorsworld.net.