Head-To-Head Matchup: Klay Thompson Vs. Bradley Beal
By: Jasper Scherer
When the Golden State Warriors host the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night, we’ll see a matchup between two of the NBA’s best young shooting guards: Klay Thompson and Bradley Beal. Despite their common position, however, the two are inherently different, and Thompson holds a steady edge for a couple of reasons.
Of course, the Warriors shooting guard’s obvious advantage is that he’s a significantly better shooter. Thompson is actually shooting the three ball better than Stephen Curry this season, and he’s never finished below 40 percent from beyond the arc in a season. Interestingly, Beal is shooting threes at a better clip than Thompson, but Klay has taken more than twice as many shots as Beal (329 to 163), and the former’s esteem as a deadly shooter means he draws far more attention beyond the arc than Beal does.
When it comes to overall shooting, however, there really is no room for debate. Thompson shoots 47 percent on two-point attempts, putting him at .444 overall. In contrast, Beal is shooting at a .405 clip on two-pointers, .411 in total. The best indication of Thompson’s shooting supremacy, however, is in his True Shooting Percentage (TS%), which accounts for free throws and three-pointers. While the Warriors shooting guard is at .560 on the season in that category, Beal’s .499 TS% ranks him 248th out of 333 qualifiers.
But looking beyond what’s patently clear, Thompson is also a better defender than Beal, and the former (arguably) has better defensive potential as well. Most importantly, Thompson has a couple of inches on Beal (6’7” to 6’5”). That 6’7 frame is generally the extent of shooting guards’ heights, which helps tremendously when it comes to defense. Much of the Warriors’ defensive improvement this season (they’re fifth in defensive efficiency, at 99.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) has been attributed to the addition of Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut’s healthy play, but Thompson is an underrated element.
Indeed, thanks to Curry’s defensive shortcomings, Thompson often draws the assignment of guarding the opposition’s point guard, which is no easy task with the Western Conference’s profusion of elite guards. What makes Thompson truly exciting as a defender, however, is that he can only improve from here. Examining the strides he’s made since he came into the league shows he has the ability to get better on the defensive side, but as previously noted, his height also gives him an added edge over most other shooting guards. Granted, Beal isn’t exactly undersized at 6’5”. But Thompson’s constant improvement and height advantage leads me to give him the edge defensively. Even so, the difference is slim enough that it’s almost negligible.
When it all comes down to it, however, the choice between Beal and Thompson depends primarily on a given team’s situation. If the team needs a younger, more athletic but less polished guard, Beal is the way to go. But if longer shooting range and better efficiency are lacking, Thompson is your man.
When considering each player’s current situation, however, Thompson is the clear choice. He has much more potential to develop with a supporting cast of Curry, Iguodala, Bogut and David Lee. His game is also far more refined, and his position as a sidekick to Curry in the backcourt is just about as good of a setup as Thompson could find. Beal, in contrast, plays on a Wizards team that is struggling to stay at .500 in the dreadful Eastern Conference. Other than John Wall, Washington doesn’t feature a star player, while the Warriors entire lineup is full of stars.
Take your pick, but I’ll choose Thompson.