Klay Thompson: Shooting Slump A Cause For Concern?

Feb 11, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) looks on during the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Warriors won 94-91. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 11, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) looks on during the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Warriors won 94-91. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

After the first month of the season, the verdict was nearly unanimous: the Golden State Warriors had made the right decision on Klay Thompson.

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Last summer, the Dubs front office caught a lot of heat for not including their prized sharpshooter in trade talks for Kevin Love. They caught even more flack when they gave him a four-year, $70 million contract — a hefty max-level extension for a guy who, to that point in his career, was really only a standstill shooter and solid perimeter defender.

By the end of November, Thompson’s strong play had flipped the script on those narratives and a new one was forged: Klay Thompson might be the best two-way shooting guard in the NBA.

Thompson was absolutely on fire through the first three months of the season, in fact. The only game he missed — a Nov. 9 game on the road against the Phoenix Suns on the second night of a back-to-back — provided the Warriors with their first loss of the season.

Take a look at Thompson’s phenomenal first three months of the season:

  • November 2014: 21.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, .454/.464/.873 shooting
  • December 2014: 21.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, .463/.404/.846 shooting
  • January 2015: 25.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, .536/.491/.855 shooting

Check out those insane January numbers again. The guy averaged nearly 26 points per game while shooting just under 54 percent from the floor and 49 percent from downtown…for the entire month.

That’s probably what makes Thompson’s recent shooting struggles so perplexing.

In 12 games in February, Thompson’s numbers dipped to 19.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game on 41.5 percent shooting from the floor and 42.9 percent from three-point range. With the exception of the assists and three-point percentage, those were all season-low numbers by month.

Through three games in March, Thompson is averaging a meager 14.7 points per game on 30.4 percent shooting (22.2 percent from downtown).

This, of course, includes his worst outing of the season — a 3-for-17, seven-point outing against the Brooklyn Nets that resulted in a loss for the Dubs. It was the only time this season Thompson’s failed to reach double-digit scoring. Three games is a small sample size, but this Splash Brother hasn’t been doing much splashing since his majestic 37-point quarter:

To be fair, it’s not like Thompson has been bad over the last month. He still drilled nearly 43 percent of his three-point attempts, after all. But his overall efficiency from inside the arc has dropped off a cliff and this recent shooting slump has, for the most part, lasted for the past few weeks.

On the season, the Thompson is converting 60.8 percent of his shot attempts from five feet in, according to NBA.com. But in February, that number nosedived to 48.8 percent. On shots from 5-9 feet, his percentage for February (35.7 percent) also dipped from his season average (39.7 percent). The same goes for his conversion rate from 10-14 feet (42.4 percent to 33.3 percent) and 15-19 feet (44.3 to 38.1).

Basically, this could just be a matter of Thompson needing to make shots like he was to start the season.

Is it the result of fatigue? While it’s a possibility, that seems unlikely since Thompson’s playing time has dropped from 35.4 minutes per game last season to 32.7 per game this year with Kerr making a concerted effort to give his starters rest.

There’s a very good possibility the problem lies in the obvious fact that young players play better at home than on the road.

In January, when Thompson had his best month of the season, the Dubs enjoyed the Oracle Arena advantage in 11 of their 15 games. In February, Thompson’s worst month, the Warriors played nine of their 11 games on the road. There’s a pretty stark contrast between his home production and his numbers on the road this season:

  • Home: 24.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, .509/.478/.876 shooting
  • Road: 19.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, .417/.380/.867 shooting

Perhaps it’s just this simple: Klay Thompson plays better at home when he can feed off the energy of the crowd. At 25 years of age, it’s hard to fault him too much there, especially when he’s fully aware he needs to get his touch back on track:

With 14 of Golden State’s remaining 23 games coming at home, Thompson will have ample opportunities to build his confidence back up, just in time for the playoffs.

The Warriors currently hold a 4.5-game lead over the Memphis Grizzlies for the top seed in the West, so as much as a month-long slump is worrisome, Klay Thompson’s recent shooting slump shouldn’t be a major cause for concern yet.

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