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?
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):
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):
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%|
|P&R Ball Handler||8%||0.57||177||29%|
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.
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.