Golden State Warriors: Can Klay Thompson Create His Own Shot?


For those that watch the Golden State Warriors regularly, you’ll probably shout “Yes! Klay Thompson can get his own shot! That’s one of the best things about him!” Yet, a look at some advanced metrics raises some serious red flags. If Thompson can create his own shot, why is his assisted rate remarkably high? Is he just playing within the offense or are we overrating his ability?

Klay Thompson

He’s a terrific shooter, but he needs help getting those shots. Photo Credit: Nikk La, Flickr.com

PERCENTAGE OF FIELD GOALS ASSISTED UPON

Assisted percentage can be a noisy stat, because those who choose to play within the offense might have a big number. For example, if you play on a team with terrific ball movement where the ball is constantly swinging around the perimeter, you’re probably going to have a high assisted percentage.

Thompson’s overall assisted percentage was .833 during the regular season. Of his 508 makes, a whopping 423 were assisted. Breaking it down a bit, his 2-point assisted percentage was .741 and his 3-point assisted percentage was .945!

Take a look at this chart, which shows the top guys in assisted percentage (min. 400 field goal attempts):

Rk Player Season Tm G FG FGA FG% FGX 3P 3PA 3P% 3PX eFG% Ast’d %Ast’d
1 Kyle Korver 2012-13 ATL 74 277 601 .461 324 189 414 .457 225 .618 267 .964
2 Steve Novak 2012-13 NYK 81 178 430 .414 252 149 351 .425 202 .587 167 .938
3 Jared Dudley 2012-13 PHO 79 313 669 .468 356 106 271 .391 165 .547 269 .859
4 Danny Green 2012-13 SAS 80 297 663 .448 366 177 413 .429 236 .581 255 .859
5 Dante Cunningham 2012-13 MIN 80 314 671 .468 357 0 6 .000 6 .468 266 .847
6 Mike Dunleavy 2012-13 MIL 75 276 624 .442 348 128 299 .428 171 .545 232 .841
7 Antawn Jamison 2012-13 LAL 75 267 575 .464 308 84 233 .361 149 .537 224 .839
8 Klay Thompson 2012-13 GSW 82 508 1205 .422 697 211 526 .401 315 .509 423 .833
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/11/2013.

We see Thompson at No.8, but look at those other guys. Do any of them qualify as being a guy who can get his own shot? Absolutely not. These are spot-up shooters (save for Cunningham) that bury their heels behind the 3-point line and wait for a pass.

For a bit of reference, let’s look at the eight players with the lowest assisted percentage (min. 400 field goal attempts):

Rk Player Season Tm G FG FGA FG% FGX 3P 3PA 3P% 3PX eFG% Ast’d %Ast’d
1 Chris Paul 2012-13 LAC 70 412 856 .481 444 76 232 .328 156 .526 92 .223
2 Rajon Rondo 2012-13 BOS 38 225 465 .484 240 12 50 .240 38 .497 54 .240
3 Will Bynum 2012-13 DET 63 253 540 .469 287 24 76 .316 52 .491 61 .241
4 Russell Westbrook 2012-13 OKC 82 673 1535 .438 862 97 300 .323 203 .470 167 .248
5 John Wall 2012-13 WAS 49 324 735 .441 411 12 45 .267 33 .449 87 .269
6 Greivis Vasquez 2012-13 NOH 78 438 1012 .433 574 83 243 .342 160 .474 121 .276
7 Tony Parker 2012-13 SAS 66 519 995 .522 476 24 68 .353 44 .534 144 .277
8 Jrue Holiday 2012-13 PHI 78 555 1288 .431 733 91 247 .368 156 .466 160 .288
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/11/2013.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not surprising that there’s a bunch of point guards on here. But at the same time, all of those players have the ability to get their own shots.

IS IT THE GOLDEN STATE SYSTEM?

So, is it a product of the Golden State system? Is everybody on the team seeing inflated assisted percentage numbers because they move the ball so well? Not exactly. Harrison Barnes had an assisted percentage of .634, David Lee was at .683 and Andrew Bogut was at .614. The Warriors finished No. 14 in the NBA in total assists as a team, so it’s not like they’re racking them up in record numbers.

There is one key stat that lends some credence to the theory that Thompson is simply playing his role in the system and can, in fact, create his own shot. A look at the players who assisted upon his field goals during the regular season shows us that he wasn’t overly dependent on Stephen Curry. In fact, while he got 146 assists from Curry, he got 103 from Lee and 97 from Jarrett Jack.

THE SMOKING GUN

Synergy Sports releases numbers on each and every NBA player and how they perform in different types of situations. There’s no better way to expose Thompson’s troubles creating his own shot than to just show you the numbers (percentages rounded).

Play Ends in FGA, TO or FTs % of time PPP Rank FG%
Overall 100% 0.94 156 43%
Isolation 8% 0.56 198 30%
P&R Ball Handler 8% 0.57 177 29%
Spot-Up 25% 1.26 17 46%
Off Screen 25% 0.85 89 41%
Transition 19% 1.09 189 48%

Look at how poorly Thompson performs when he’s put into isolation or in the pick-and-roll as the ball handler. When he’s expected to make plays for himself, he is in a ton of trouble. When he’s allowed to play to his strengths, such as spotting up, he’s right in his wheelhouse.

CONCLUSION

It’s no surprise that 69 percent of Thompson’s attempts came in spot-up, off screen and transition offense. It is surprising that he isn’t proficient at creating his own shot. He’s a tremendous spot-up shooter that can thrive in a system with a point guard that can draw a lot of attention and kick the ball out to him. Luckily, playing next to Curry enables him to do just that.

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Tags: Golden State Warriors Klay Thompson NBA