The Golden State Warriors are set for the future at shooting guard with Klay Thompson, who is only going to get better as he gains confidence and gets more aggressive.
While his sophomore season has not been a bust, he hasn’t quite made the leap that many thought he would in his second season. The good news is he proved exactly what is capable of on January 29th against the Cleveland Cavaliers while Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes, Carl Landry and Andrew Bogut all sat out.
This is his complete stat line so far for the 2012-2013 NBA season:
40.7 FG%, 38.1 3P%, 90.1 FT%, 16.1 PTS, 2.5 AST, 4.0 REB, 0.9 STL, 0.5 BLK 1.9 TO.
Good, but with talent like his, everything could be higher. Well, except turnovers.
But that is going largely unnoticed because the Warriors are having a fantastic season and Klay has done what Golden State has needed him to do. Stretch the defense with his sweet-shooting stroke. His shooting percentage isn’t all that great, but when you consider how many three pointers he takes you can live with it.
Imagine if he always played the way he did against Cleveland tonight, scoring a career high 32 points. Yes, hitting six threes helps, but there was more to his game than that. He was aggressive. He was cutting more and he was playing inside the three-point line more, which in effect gave him more open looks from beyond the arc.
What we saw from him against Cleveland is exactly the type of attitude and aggression that he should take with Curry and the entire team healthy and in the game.
How often does he attack the rim like that with Curry and Barnes in the game?
With those two on the court, he tends to camp out on the perimeter too often, exemplified by the fact that he is averaging just four shot attempts inside 15 feet for the season.
This is a typical great Thompson game.
Catch. Shoot. In.
It's great if they all go in, but remember he makes 38 percent of these.
And nearly every attempt he has a defender flying at him because they know the shot is going up. If he would implement a shot fake and put the ball on the floor, there is no doubt that he would be able to take it strong to the hoop and stuff it home. That, or he uses his deft passing ability (which has only gotten him 2.5 assists per game on team that averages over 100 points per game) to get others open looks.
At worst, by taking it strong to the hole he gets more than two free-throw attempts per game. He owns a high basketball I.Q. so that when he does put the ball on the floor, he will be able to put the team in the best in the position to score whether he takes the shot or finds an open man.
Here is a highlight reel of Thompson’s 24-point game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 12th, 2012.
This is what he is capable of when he steps inside the three-point line. Sure, he takes a lot of shots in this clip (it's a highlight clip after all), but how much better is he going to be when he makes a pass or takes it straight to the hoop, drawing more fouls to gets opposing big men in trouble?
Remember he is a 90 percent foul shooter, but he is only averaging two attempts per game. He needs to attack the rim more aggressively and hope that the defense sends him to the line. He could be Kevin Durant-like at the foul line if he would just get there.
Just letting Thompson put the ball on the floor more will add a whole other element to the Golden State offense and improve his game. And if defenders think he just might take the ball to the rim, it will open up the perimeter and his three-point percentage would climb.
He just needs to spread his wings a little bit. Play with a bit more confidence. He has shown that he is a multifaceted player; he just has to get out of the straight catch-and-shoot mentality, open up his game and get more aggressive.
Not only will he improve, but the Warriors just won't be thinking of making the playoffs, they'll be wondering how far they can advance in them.