The pressure is on for Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors to perform in the upcoming season. Regardless of whether or not he deserves these elevated expectations, there’s no denying that they exist. Thompson is reportedly seeking a max contract after next season and his lack of inclusion in a potential trade package for Kevin Love fueled intense debate regarding his abilities as a basketball player. He’s been under heavy criticism, and he’ll be able to respond to it in just a few months.
A major reason Thompson’s value is seemingly inflated right now is because of his age. Compare him to an older player of similar production (his numbers adjusted for possessions are strikingly similar to Wesley Matthews of the Portland Trail Blazers), and there’s an excellent chance that Thompson will be making significantly more money than him after next season.
It’s because of his potential. A player that gives you 18 points, 3 rebounds and a paltry 2 assists in 35 minutes per game doesn’t typically earn himself a max contract. The expectation is that Thompson will continue to expand his game, even after his payday, and become an even more valuable asset in a commodity-driven league.
In order to develop offensively, Thompson will need to continue to improve his ability to slash to the rim. He’s improved in recent months, but still blows drives that leave spectators confused. Being able to penetrate the lane is an important skill for a shooting guard, and would add versatility to his game on the offensive end.
Thompson also needs to become a more willing passer. He’s a fairly efficient player, with a True Shooting Percentage of 55.5, but he’s sometime unaware of an open Stephen Curry in the corner or a patiently waiting David Lee at the elbow. His low assist totals – 2.2 per game – are proof of his inability to distribute the ball. Adding the passing game would not only reflect well on him as a player, but would significantly enhance the team’s offense and allow Curry to play off the ball more frequently.
While gaudy individual numbers will pad his resume next season, team success will likely be just as important. The Splash Brothers are critically acclaimed as a duo not only because of their shooting prowess, but their seeming ability to complement each other and fortify their team as a whole. If Klay decides to become a ball-dominant guard and sacrifices team success for boosted scoring numbers, the Splash Brothers would be considered a failed experiment. But if the Warriors are able to advance to the Western Conference finals with Thompson as an efficient and trustworthy second option for the team, he will have proved his worth.
Thompson is playing for both a contract and the opportunity to silence critics next year. In the end, his team’s record may be as indicative of his success as his individual numbers.
Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports
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