How Klay Thompson Can Justify Golden State Warriors' Loyalty

Scott Burns@Follow @ScottInTheBayCorrespondent IIIJuly 21, 2014

Klay Thompson is going to have to take his game to the next level.
Klay Thompson is going to have to take his game to the next level.Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Klay Thompson has steadily improved every year of his young NBA career, but he must truly elevate his game in 2014-15 to justify the Golden State Warriors’ loyalty.

The Dubs have a legitimate shot at unloading heavy salary in David Lee’s contract while acquiring a young, top-10 player in the Minnesota TimberwolvesKevin Love.  The linchpin in this potential deal is Thompson.

While the Warriors held their cards tight to their vest, the Cleveland Cavaliers recently joined the Love sweepstakes.  The Cavs have tried to negotiate a deal that may include the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Andrew Wiggins.

Why the Warriors Are Holding Off

Warriors brass does not want to entertain the thought of losing the other Splash Brother because Thompson's game has grown every season.  He has developed from a strictly catch-and-shoot weapon to a player that can handle the ball and has emerged as one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA.

Thompson showed his defensive abilities in this year’s first-round series versus the Los Angeles Clippers, when he had to guard All-Star point guard Chris Paul.  Thompson held Paul to a more pedestrian averages of 17.4 points and 9.0 assists, compared to the 22.5 scoring and 11.8 assist averages he put up against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the conference semifinals.

USA Today’s Sam Amick further breaks down why Klay is so valuable to the Warriors.

Yes, Love is a difference-maker, as he can spread the floor to open more shots for teammates, but he is average at best on the defensive end.  He is an upgrade, but only marginally better than Lee on that side of the ball.

Coach Steve Kerr’s offensive style requires to have a stretch-4, and Stephen Curry will get many more looks as a result.  However, Curry would have to spend a lot more effort on defense, thus exerting more energy and wearing himself down.

Also, the Warriors would most likely have to take back shooting guard Kevin Martin’s $22 million contract and his limited skill set.

And even though Love mentioned that he would love to play in the Bay Area, he hasn’t guaranteed anything.  As soon as LeBron came back to the Cavs, Love’s interest was pushed in a different direction.


Fans Don’t Have the Final Say

Goldent State fans will see this stalemate over Love as a reason to scrutinize Thompson, especially with Thompson looking for a maximum deal this offseason.

Could Thompson be making more money than starting All-Star point guard Curry?

Yes, as Curry took the reduced deal because of his ankle problems.  Curry has since played through those injuries and has emerged a top-tier player with a very reasonable contract.

As the free-agent deals for Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward have been inked this summer, Thompson is looking more deserving of a maximum contract.

Besides the defense, Thompson has improved his scoring average in each of his three years in the NBA, from 12.5 points in his rookie season to 16.6 to 18.4.  He has also improved his handle and minimized his “Klay-ups.”

Still, Thompson needs to better use his body when driving to the hoop. 

His free-throw totals per game improved from 1.9 in the previous season to 2.3 this past campaign.  However, the 2.3 per-game total ranked second to last among shooting guards.

He is a tireless worker and will look to improve his game again this summer while he is working out with Love and Curry at the 2014 National Team training camp in Las Vegas (July 28 and Aug. 1).

Thompson first looked to improve his defense after his rookie season, and then he improved his ball-handling during the summer last year.  This year, he will look to improve his ability to get to the foul line and further hone his all-around game.

Thompson should work on his consistency this summer, so that he can provide both a maximum effort every night on both ends of the floor.  Last season, his offense would disappear at times, and he would be unable to get into a rhythm until the game was already decided.

Nevertheless, Coach Kerr is excited to have one of the most established and best-shooting backcourts in the game.  His coaching philosophy will be strengthened with that arsenal on the court.


Teammates Support

Thompson’s teammates don’t want to see him be shipped off to Minnesota, even if, in Love, the team can acquire the stretch-4 they say they need. 

Andre Iguodala likes his perimeter partner and doesn’t want to see him go.

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News’ Diamond Leung, Iguodala made his feelings quite clear about Thompson in an interview with Sirius-XM radio:

That’s not going to happen...I want to clear that up right now. We should not trade Klay Thompson. I tell Klay this every day. I text Klay and say, ‘Don’t worry. I’m your man. I’m going to make sure you get paid. I’m going to get you the max (contract). You’ll be taken care of. Don’t stress.’

Klay really loves it in the Bay, and this is his first time going through trade rumors, and I’ve been through it many times, especially being in Philly. But Klay is my main man. I love Klay to death. One of my favorite people in the world even though he doesn’t speak. But we’re going to get Klay paid this year. He’s going to be a Warrior for life.

If I’m any other team, I’d take Klay as well, so I don’t know. You’ve got to look at the pros out of it. I tell Klay this: ‘Listen, if they’re talking about trading you for Kevin Love, that means you’re getting Kevin Love money.'

Iguodala, a member of this season’s NBA All-Defensive first team, also mentioned that if the Dubs could acquire Love without giving up Thompson, he would be happy with the outcome.

His backcourt mate, Curry, is also on the same page in his support.  He would like to keep the Splash Brothers by the Bay.

In an interview with Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale, Curry spoke about how Thompson is just beginning to climb the ladder.

B/R: You and Andre Iguodala have been open in your support of Klay Thompson. Why do you feel it's so important to keep him around with the team long term?

SC: He's a guy that hasn't even scratched the surface of his full potential yet. Just thinking about how much he makes me better as a player, and I try to make him better. He's a great shooter and he plays at both ends of the floor.  

Thompson plays hard every night and has the support of the people he needs it from the most—his teammates and coaches.


Realistic Expectations

In order to realistically gauge Thompson’s expectations, the full story needs to unfold.  If the Warriors hold on to Thompson in the Love sweepstakes, what will the final result be?

Will the Timberwolves finalize negotiations with Cleveland, and will Wiggins have to be included?

Will the Warriors still have any chance of getting Love if Thompson is left out of the package?

Will keeping Thompson be the reward for the opportunity lost should the Warriors miss out on getting Love?

Once the deal goes down, analysts can start breaking down the true price of the talent given up for Love.  At that point, the true comparisons can be made against Thompson on a macro level.

In any case, Thompson will need to prove to the fans at Oracle Arena in Oakland that he can take his game to the next level.  Translated, that means being a 20-plus point scorer, a player who can create, distribute, get fouled and shut down the opponent’s biggest perimeter threat on a nightly basis.

He will not need to be the star of the game every night, but he will have to take away the spotlight from Curry on a more consistent basis.

He will have to take the Dubs to at least the second round of the playoffs and do all of this while he gets comfortable with a new coach on the fly.

It’s a tall task, but one that Thompson can handle.











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