Is Klay Thompson Worth His New Max Deal?
Halloween weekend is awesome. Candy is rampant. Everyone dresses up. Beautiful women push the boundaries of what's deemed socially acceptable to wear and every fourth house throws a rager. But no matter how amazing your Halloween weekend was, Klay Thompson's was better.
On Friday, Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors agreed in principle to a 4-year, $70 million contract extension. The contract will kick in next season, precisely when the NBA salary cap is expected to see a tremendous jump. This bodes well for the Warriors, who already have $63 million locked up in just 8 guys next year. Thompson will be the highest paid player on the team.
On Saturday, Klay went toe-to-toe with Kobe Bryant... and destroyed the Black Mamba. He scored 41 points on only 18 shots! His career high. Most importantly, the Warriors cruised to a 127-104 victory.
On Sunday, Thompson scored 29 in a road win over the Blazers. He made a tough runner over Wes Matthews to put the Warriors up one with nine seconds left. He then jumped on a tipped loose ball to seal the game on the ensuing possession.
On Monday morning, Klay's 3-0 Dubs were staring down at 28 other teams as the second-highest rated team in our metrics. And Thompson, yeah, he was the number one rated player by our nERD statistic. Thompson's year-to-year improvement has been ridiculous.
|Year||PPG||3PM/3PA||nERD||Off. Rating||Def. Rating|
Granted, he's been helped out by upgrades in team roster, but he's improved his scoring, offensive rating, defensive rating and nERD each season!
It's an extremely small sample size, but there are indications that Klay has revamped his entire offensive approach. For a few years, advanced camera systems in each NBA arena have been tracking player movement, offensive tendencies, and defensive rotations. Last year, the league began releasing some of this data to its consumers.
Klay's shot distribution has changed significantly from last season to this one.
|Year||FGA||Drives (%)||Catch and Shoot (%)||Pull-Up Shots (%)||FTA|
|2014||15.7||2.8 (18%)||7.6 (48%)||3.9 (25%)||2.3|
|2015||18.4||4.7 (26%)||6.3 (34%)||4.7 (26%)||7.7|
Last season, Thompson was noticeably uncomfortable handling the rock. Mark Jackson had to create opportunities for him to catch the ball in a shooting stance. This year, at least so far, that's not the case. Over half of his shots come off the dribble, evenly split between drives to the hoop and dribble pull-up jumpers. For the first time in his career, he can be a weapon without shooting well from downtown.
More ball time has led to other benefits. Klay's more than doubling his previous career high of free throw attempts per game, and he destroyed Robin Lopez on this monster facial late in the Portland win.
So where did this improvement come from? It's tough to look past his golden summer with Team USA at the FIBA World Championships in Spain. He was second among guards in minutes per game for USA. He shot 50% from the floor and 41% on threes. He also spent the summer practicing against the best players and learning under several of the best coaches in the world.
He's also benefited from playing on a team with a winning mentality. The Warriors have improved their record each year since Klay was drafted. They didn't make the second round of the playoffs last season but pushed a talented Clippers team to seven games without Andrew Bogut.
With so many plus defenders (Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Bogut) the Warriors have posted a league best defensive rating of 89.9 through 3 games. They're poised for a deep playoff run, and Klay's dramatic improvement is the number one catalyst.