The Golden State Warriors are still unbeaten, but Klay Thompson has been quietly finding his rhythm too.
On a team that features one of the greatest offensive weapons in NBA history (Stephen Curry) and a nightly triple-double threat who also doubles as one of the league’s most versatile defenders (Draymond Green), it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t long ago that Klay Thompson was universally regarded as the second best player on the Golden State Warriors.
Back then, Thompson was far more one-dimensional than he is now, but when the Dubs’ starting shooting guard came out to start the 2014-15 season with a vengeance, dropping 41 points in just his second game of the year, it became all too clear that he was hellbent on living up to his gaudy four-year, $70 million offseason extension.
Thompson’s start to the 2015-16 campaign hasn’t been nearly as impressive, with his numbers dropping from a career high 21.7 points per game and unbelievable .463/.439/.879 shooting splits last year to 16.5 points per game on .453/.412/.816 splits so far this season.
But after a slow first couple of games that were almost overlooked amidst Golden State’s torrid start, it appears that Klay Thompson is starting to find his rhythm again.
To be clear, exactly no one should’ve been concerned when Thompson came out averaging 15.0 points on 44 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent shooting from three-point range through the first seven games of the season. With Stephen Curry lighting opposing teams on fire and the Warriors still undefeated, the Dubs were more than able to withstand his early mediocrity.
It was also worth noting that Thompson wasn’t 100 percent healthy early on, playing through a back injury that he admitted was something that probably should’ve benched him. He looked a step slow defensively and even with the Dubs smoking their opponents, his early “struggles” were still a noticeable under-the-radar topic of conversation.
Blue Man Hoop
The Warriors are still the Steph Curry Show, but now that he appears to be fully healthy, Thompson is starting to put up the kind of numbers that we’re accustomed to seeing from him.
Over the last nine games, Thompson is averaging 18.0 points per game on 46.4 percent shooting and has knocked down 43.5 percent of his three-point attempts. The scoring still isn’t where it was last year, but it’s worth noting that the Dubs are blowing out their opponents so often that they’ve only needed him to play 6.7 fourth quarter minutes per game over that stretch.
Thompson has scored in double figures in every one of his last nine contests and has reached the 20-point threshold four times. Those numbers would probably be even better if the Warriors were being challenged on a nightly basis, but in the one game they were tested in Utah, Thompson had 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting (4-of-7 from deep).
Against Charlotte the other night, it was Curry’s 28-point third quarter that became the top storyline, but let’s not forget that Thompson’s 18 first half points were what paced the Dubs until their MVP completely took over.
And that’s exactly the point: unlike last year, the Warriors might not need as much from Thompson in order to make a strong case for the NBA championship.
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The rest of the West — outside of the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder — has fallen off by comparison, and with Curry emerging as a 32.0 PPG scorer and the rest of the supporting cast vastly improving, Golden State might just be fine with slightly diminished numbers from Thompson as long as he brings his defense and remains a threat from three-point territory.
Festus Ezeli has looked like a more than capable backup for Andrew Bogut, Brandon Rush has filled in nicely for an injured Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green has continued to improve his three-point shot and all-around stat line as a nightly triple double threat.
But even with Steph Curry being the league’s most unstoppable offensive force we’ve seen in years, the recent signs of life we’ve seen from Klay Thompson could make an unstoppable team even more impossible to beat — a terrifying thought for the rest of the NBA that’s still trying to catch up.