Stephen Curry is arguably the best shooter in the NBA. David Lee became the first All-Star for the Golden State Warriors in two centuries (sort of). Andrew Bogut, when healthy, is known as one of the most effective defensive centers around. Even Harrison Barnes' play is commended when he exhibits spurts of greatness.
The one guy that isn't talked about and perhaps under-appreciated by fans and writers?
His numbers at a glance aren't overwhelming. Thompson is shooting 42 percent from the field, and a decent—for him—39.7 percent from three.
He is an inch taller than Kobe Bryant (6'7") but only averages four boards a game. Combine that with high turnover (1.9) and low assist (2.2) numbers, and it's a somewhat empty peripheral game outside of shooting.
And he isn't even shooting that well.
So why does he deserve more credit?
Thompson does two things that most fans are unable to see during the flow of the game: spacing on offense and solid on-ball defense.
Let's get this straight: Most of the off-ball defense by the Warriors is mediocre at best. The slow-footed Lee, Curry and even Bogut cause incessantly slow rotations on the perimeter.
This is remedied a bit by the bench players like Draymond Green and even Kent Bazemore.
Thompson isn't the quickest or most athletic player, but he does a great job staying in front of his man off screens and off the dribble.
According to Synergy Sports, Thompson is allowing opponents to shoot 35 percent on all isolation plays. Mark Jackson has used him on opposing point guards because of Curry's propensity to draw quick fouls, and Thompson has held his own against the likes of Tony Parker and Chris Paul.
The player he does an excellent job guarding is James Harden, forcing him into off-balance shot after off-balance shot. Perhaps something to do with those trade rumors in the offseason, eh?
Harden has shot 31.8 percent in four games this season against the Warriors and Thompson, who has guarded him the majority of the minutes.
People love to lump together the great shooters of the Warriors as Klay and Curry, but the reality is that Curry is a step above. Well, he's a step or five above everyone, actually.
Klay has trouble shooting off the dribble and can't hit as many off-balance shots as Curry. Thompson shoots 45.4 percent on spot-ups but only 38.6 percent off screens, according to Synergy Sports.However, the fear he instills against the opponent is integral to the offense.
For example, teams have begun to aggressively double-team Curry off the pick-and-roll and even before he steps across half-court because of his shooting ability. This, in turn, opens up the middle for a rolling Lee and a corner three from Thompson.
This lineup works best when there is a point guard that is able to play off the spacing created from Klay and Curry.
The Curry/Jack/Thompson/Lee/Bogut combination hasn't played that many minutes this season because of Bogut's injury, but it's been hyper-efficient when it's been on the court.
According to 82games.com, the five are plus-46 in the 144.2 minutes they've been on the floor. That is no coincidence as the lineup also flourishes in the three-guard formation with Landry replacing Bogut.
Say what you will about Jack's propensity to hold onto the ball for too long, but when he looks to get his shooters the ball, the offense opens up for the shooters. Bogut and Lee are excellent interior passers as well, which bodes well for a spot-up shooter like Thompson.
The logical progression of a solid young player can be frustrating for a fanbase, but Thompson's growth in other areas that aren't as well-known and seemingly stunted development in the more tangible aspects like shooting and passing leaves him an easy target.
So one can knock on Thompson's turnovers, shooting selection and lack of creative ability off the dribble, but his defense and impact on the offense is underrated on a team that appears poised to make the playoffs for the first time since Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson graced the hardwood in Oakland.
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