Breaking down the Klay Thompson Contract Situation
How much will Klay Thompson’s Extension cost?
In addition to trying to bolster the roster the Warriors enter this summer with an opportunity to extend Klay Thompson before he hits restricted free agency in the summer of 2015. Any extension would have no barring on the 2014/15 payroll. Thompson is already slotted to make $4.47 million next season per the rookie scale.
The Warriors do have incentive to extend him early. If the Warriors do not reach an agreement with Thompson by the end of October, the Warriors will have to wait till next summer where potentially other teams can offer him big money and the Warriors are left with option to match, work out a trade or let him outright walk.
So why extend Klay Thompson early?
Letting a young, promising player enter restricted free agency is always risky. And in a league with harsh salary cap penalties, a bad contract or two can be poisonous and leave a team in a position where it can’t improve it’s roster. In the last 3 summers, Roy Hibbert, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon all reached it. All 3 received contracts richer than their current team was hoping for. Hibbert and Gordon’s teams ended up matching the 4 year/$58 million offers they received, while the Sacramento Kings let Evans walk for 4 years/$44 million.
Conversely, Bob Myers was able to work out an extension with Stephen Curry the summer before he entered restricted free agency for 4 years/$44 million. If the Warriors had waited it’s assured to have had to pay more to keep him.
The Warriors have made it known, they intent to keep Klay Thompson.
Joe Lacob on contract status of his shooting guard: “We are going to re-sign Klay Thompson. I will say that unequivocally.” #Warriors
— 95.7 The GAME (@957thegame) April 24, 2014
The question becomes at what price?
To figure out Thompson’s price tag, let’s compare Thompson to other shooting guards. Here are last seasons top 12 scoring shooting guards organized by points per game:
On the positive, the numbers show Klay is an elite shooter. He has the second highest 3pt% and on the highest volume of shots. While 3 point shooting seems to be going up around the league, there were only 5 players who played a full season and averaged over 40% on over 6 attempts per game (only 12 who did it on over 5 per game). It is an elite and valuable skill and not the easiest one to come by.
He makes 2-point shots at the 5th highest percentage. His efficiency ranks above league average (league average TS% is 53.5) and 6th among the top scoring SGs. The numbers also show he is a positive on defense. He has the highest defensive rating of any of the top 12 scoring SGs.
Real Plus-Minus ranks him 11th most impactful SG (10th if you consider dragic a PG, 9th if you discard Kobe Bryant who only played 6 games), with a positive impact on the defense, and a relative neutral impact on defense.
With Real Plus-Minus you must also consider a players role and use-age. Some of the players ranked ahead of him play considerably less minutes in defined roles. Would Danny Green or Tony Allen have the same positive impact if they were asked to play 36 minutes a game and do all the things Klay Thompson does?
Another positive to consider is durability and endurance. In three seasons Thompson has only missed one game, last season, attending his grandfather’s funeral. While we can all agree Dwyane Wade is the superior SG, how much more of an impact would he make on this Warrior team if he only played 50-55 games? Klay Thompson was 2nd in NBA in miles covered per game, a stat that shouldn’t be surprising when you consider what he is asked to do. On defense, he regularly guards the opposing point guard, running throw endless pick and rolls. On offense, his chief responsibility is to space the floor, running the baseline off screens, over and over. He is able to do both with a positive impact on the team. And because of those considerations WAR (Wins Above Replacement) ranks Thompson 5th.
While Klay does a lot to help the Warriors win games, he’s not without shortcomings. Despite the elite 3-point shooting, his efficiency isn’t elite like Stephen Curry. He hovers around slightly above average TS% because he takes too many mid-range jumpers, doesn’t finish exceptionally well at the rim (55.88%) and posts up too often with below average returns.
Klay has not shown himself to be a consistent passer (2.3 assists per game) or ball-handler to date. He’s not a player you can expect to create off the dribble. Traditionally, it’s not been common practice for a non-big man who doesn’t initiate offense, and is reliant on others to set him up, to receive a contract over $10 million.
He hasn’t consistently rebounded his position; though it’s worth noting per 82games.com, the Warriors rebound slightly better when he is on the floor than when he isn’t, it’s not always down to raw numbers.
So how much?
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact valuation. Assuming his production stays the same next season and he hit free agency in 2015, he’d be the top SG on the market (provided Wade doesn’t opt out). Shooting Guard is a thin position and being only 25 it’s reasonable to think he’d start receiving offers well above 10 million. Tyreke Evans received an offer sheet of 4 years/$44 million, Eric Gordon’s was higher and neither had been more productive than Thompson.
DeMar DeRozan was extended a summer early in 2012 for 4 years/$40 million. At that point DeRozan was off of a season averaging 16.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.0 apg and a TS% of .502. DeRozan was a year younger than Thompson, but it was largely based off potential to improve (a gamble which worked out for Toronto). In 2011 Afflalo was given a 5 year/$43 million extension. Afflalo had only averaged 12.6 ppg, 2.4 apg, 3.6 rpg though he was very efficient with a .620TS% in large to elite 3 point shooting (Career 40.8% at that point). Afflalo was also 26 years old. Harden received a 5-year max ($80 million) from Houston in 2012 at the age of 23. He was off of a summer with the Olympic team, a trip to finals and a season winning 6th man of the year averaging 17 ppg on elite efficiency.
Any contract for Klay Thompson likely starts in the $10 million range. Can the Warriors work out an extension that both sides are happy with? If they don’t he will have a lot of suitors next season, and the Golden State management knows that.
Myers on Klay Thompson extension: “We can’t talk about it until July 1st, but we definitely want to keep him. He’s a Top 5 SG in the NBA.”
— KNBR (@KNBR) May 30, 2014
This will be a situation to monitor until next November.