Before KD moved his operations to Oakland, the Splash Brothers stirred the drink, this dynamic two man perimeter making, three point creating, offensive juggernaut that pushed the Warriors to 73 wins, two NBA Finals appearances and a league that tried to copy them. Adding Kevin Durant made the Warrior faithful giddy and at at the same time it made the Warrior faithful nervous. Who would be the odd man out? Who was going to have to suffer? It always happens. It has to happen.
Chris Bosh had to be less than his 20-10 self when the Miami Big Three came together. Ray Allen was less not more in Boston. He made big shots and game winning threes but he wasn’t the focal point of the offense anymore. Even Hall of Famer James Worthy was third in the pecking order after Magic and Kareem. So it stands to reason someone on the Warriors would get the short straw.
Not Steph. He’s the star. He sells the tickets. He’s the headliner. It’s not Draymond Green. They need his presence on the inside to facilitate the offense, rebound, bully front court players, inject his craziness into his teammates, in general, ramp up the game. And so it left Klay Thompson. Of course it left Klay.
He does the same thing as Kevin Durant. He’s just not as good at it. He’s not 6-11. He’s not as skilled as putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim. He’s not the second or third best player in the NBA. The perimeter shots Durant takes are some of the same shots Klay Thompson used to take. Or, to put it more bluntly, the shots Klay is taking and missing badly. Like can’t hit the side of the barn missing.
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Klay has had a scintillating NBA career shooting the ball. He came in with confidence, the son of a NBA champion who had the opportunity to be around and be advised by NBA players, particularly his idol Kobe Bryant. His rookie year he shot 41.4% from three. He was 21 years old. The next year it was 40.1%. His third year it was 41.7%. He was, if nothing else, consistent. In his two NBA Finals years, he posted a career high 43.9% and 42.5% from three. Many have come to think of Klay as one of the best shooters in NBA history. But this year he is shooting 19.6% from distance.
Contrary to popular opinion, he isn’t having trouble getting shots. He is taking 7.7 threes a game. That’s the second most of his career. He’s taking more shots on the road than at home. He just can’t make anything, particular catch and shoot where he’s a measely 24%. His 3-point catch and shoots are 20% efficiency. His 3-point pull ups are worse, 16.7%. Klay will have a couple of shots go in and then comes the clank fest. It hasn’t hurt his confidence. He isn’t hesitating. He puts up shots when he is open, his shots. But the basket is his enemy now.
There have been two games, back-to-back, against Phoenix and Portland, both road games, in which he didn’t make a three. In those two games he was 0-13. Against the Lakers, he was 2-10. In that Friday night ass kicking, he took the most threes he has taken this year. He wasn’t hitting twos either. He was 2-8.
Klay is taking less shots on the aggregate. He is taking the same amount as the year before this Warriors playoff run. That is the impact of Durant. Durant is cutting into the Thompson buffet. It isn’t Durant’s fault. It is just that he does the same thing Klay does. Or, more accurately Klay does the same thing as Durant.
There are two details worth mentioning. First, Klay is a jump shooter who has logged a lot of minutes. In the past two years he has played 6,731 minutes. He has played in back-to-back NBA Finals. He was part of an exhausting but thrilling 73 win season. He has taken 1,571 three pointers in two years. And then he went and played in the Olympics. He has had little time off in the past two years. It makes sense that there is some fatigue.
But, the Warriors as a whole and Klay in particular, are still trying to figure how to win with Durant. It’s obvious their Strength In Numbers identity has taken a huge hit. They just don’t have the bench depth they used to have. The Lakers demonstrated how athleticism on the inside can punish the Warriors.
The Warriors statement game against OKC may have been a moment of swag but nothing about OKC’s game, and particularly nothing about their talent, is a threat to the Warriors. The Lakers aren’t a threat either, not this year, but they highlight the trouble the Warriors have in dealing with athletic young talent on the inside, players who are versatile and can rebound and block shots. Zaza Pachulia isn’t a match for Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle.
To break out of this slump Klay has to get easier baskets. Put the ball on the floor and go to the rim. You see Curry doing that more this year than he ever has. First it gives Durant space. Second, it puts the defense at a disadvantage. At 6-7, Klay has an athletic mismatch until he gets to the rim. He might get hit a couple of times while on the block, but scoring and then going to the foul line will help the perimeter logjam. No, it isn’t the Warriors identity. It isn’t how they got this good.
But Durant has changed everything. Including Klay Thompson.
photo via llananba