Settle down, Klay
Warriors head into the final stretch with some unresolved questions
As the Golden State Warriors head into the final stretch of the season, they’ve still got some time for Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins to find their groove — but not much. It’s no secret that the Warriors need Thompson to either find his old efficiency or dial back how aggressive he is in looking for his shot. The thinking was something along the lines of “he’s working through it, give it time” and it seems to be going mostly ok.
But in the recent loss to the Phoenix Suns, Thompson and Andrew Wiggins combined to shoot 11-for-37 for a total of 31 points. I’m not so fatalistic to say that the Warriors can’t win when these two play like that, but it makes it exceedingly difficult. Saturday’s opponent, the Utah Jazz is the strongest one left on the regular season docket so it’s going to be interesting to see if a new leaf was turned against Phoenix or not.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (48-29) vs. Utah Jazz (45-31)
WHEN: Saturday April 2nd, 2022 // 5:30pm PDT
Settle down, Klay!
Some shots are better than others, but when you are a lethal outside shooter like one of the Splash Bros, then the regular rules matter a little less. It’s the same basic concept that saw coach Steve Kerr throw up his hands in exasperation before laughing and dropping them and shrugging all those years ago. And yet the returned Klay Thompson is different. Not quite to the Pet Cemetery level or anything creepy or semi-dead; but more so that Thompson’s still healing, older body isn’t the same one that walked off the NBA court almost three years ago.
Kerr knows more about basketball than just about anyone in the world — then again, so does Thompson — so I find it fascinating that this issue has become something of a talking point. Thompson and the Warriors are exploring uncharted waters, trying to find a balance between getting swamped by waves that are too big, or turning around so soon that Thompson never gets his legs under him.
For now, Thompson’s impact has been unsteady. Some days are better than others, and flashes of “old Klay” are popping up with more regularity. But in the meantime there’s been enough of “bad Klay” to cause an increasingly loud voice calling for him to dial it back some.
Here’s one way to look at it. The table below is a screenshot from Cleaning the Glass that I put into a spreadsheet and sorted by usage. Remember that the colored columns showing “%” are showing the percentile rank for the players position, and the uncolored cells are the base metric (percent usage, Points Scored per 100 Attempts (PSA)). Thompson has the second highest usage on the team by raw numbers, and the highest when you look at his positional percentile (that 94 means he’s in the top 6% of usage by wings) — but bottom 28th percent in points per attempt.
By the power of those two combined, it’s a Captain Planet of basketball hogging overconsumption. Explainable for sure. Improving? Yes. But the timing and solution of this situation are coming to a head as the Warriors play one of their five remaining regular season games tomorrow.
The question is how quickly, and how close Klay Thompson can get to his previous heights. You can still see the muscle memory, but the shots have not been falling just yet.
I went in and zoomed in on Thompson’s shooting over the whole course of his career. This is all explainable — and forgivable — but the drop off on his return is fairy staggering. Some of this is the synergy of a struggling Thompson and thriving offenses across the league, but there’s no doubt the returned Splash Brother hasn’t been his old self just yet.
It’s pretty obvious that coach Kerr is signaling Thompson that he’ll have leeway to find his footing, but given the quote above, it’s not out of the question that there’s some weirdness here. On the other hand, this is Klay Thompson. 37 points in a quarter Klay Thompson. Shooting through it is a way of life.
For now, it’s worth it to eat possessions and efficiency knocking the rust off Thompson as fast as possible. But at some point, those quick-trigger shots being a detriment matters more than Thompson finding his old stride. It seems unimaginable that Thompson would shoot the Warriors out of a game, and I can’t claim to be anywhere near the level of Kerr and Thompson’s internal discussions on the subject. Right now though? The gap between Klay’s career high shot attempt rate and career low efficiency are at least partially related — but I trust him to figure it out.
Time is the most obvious solution, but also a resource in short supply. For now, everyone is going to stay the course, Thompson has earned it. But man, if he would just dial it back a little bit…