Trading Klay Thompson Helps Everyone But the Warriors

As rumors go, the trading of Klay Thompson was one of those imaginary what-ifs that fell flat on its ridiculous face. Two years ago, Jerry West, somewhat of a Thompson apologist, nixed a deal that would have sent Klay Thompson to Minnesota for Kevin Love. West was adamant. No way, no how. Thompson stays. That next June, the Warriors won the NBA Finals and even though Thompson didn’t perform well in the Finals, 30% on threes, he was a valuable asset to the Warriors win over the Cavaliers. His chemistry with Stephan Curry was a significant part of the Warriors backcourt dominance.

Two years later,  not much has changed. Trading Klay Thompson makes no sense unless you consider this: the Warriors don’t really need Thompson, not with Kevin Durant fully entrenched into the offense and draining shots to the tune of 27.9 points, 55.8% accuracy. Thompson makes the Warriors an offensive juggernaut but if the Warriors didn’t have Thompson they would still be favored to get to the Finals.

The interest (uproar) about a Klay trade centered around Thompson’s down year and the Warriors obvious needs for depth. The Warriors don’t have the athleticism or explosiveness at the center position. They lost skill, toughness and accuracy off the bench.

This year the Warriors bench is responsible for 27.6 points. Only 2 teams have a bench that produces less and neither the Wizards nor Timberwolves are expected to make the playoffs.

The Warriors average 117.4 points per game. Their starters are responsible for 89.7 points, 76% of the offense. Last season, the starters were responsible for 70% of the offense. In the regular season, it just won’t matter. But in the playoffs, with the stress, intensity and more physical defense, there is a tangible fear of Warriors fatigue. There just isn’t much on the Warriors bench to give the starters a long rest. The Warriors are dependent on exceptional shooting creating huge leads.

The Bench Points FG% 3-Point% Rebounds
2015-16 33.8(19th) 47.5% (1st) 35.9% (5th) 16.1 (13th)
2016-17 27.6 (28th) 52.5% (1st) 28.8% (27th) 11.8 (29th)

In the Finals last year, Klay and Steph looked gassed from a long season of draining jumpers. That is not myth. So who do the Warriors have to trade to increase depth and rebounding skill? Not KD. Not Steph. Not do everything for us Draymond. Klay is the only answer. He would allow the Warriors to add a big man and another offensive piece to the anemic Warriors bench. The offense might drop off a little but their defense would improve.

The Warriors give up a lot of points. They are 27th, letting opponents score 109.4 points per game. Last year, they gave up five points less, 104.1. Klay Thompson is the worst defender of the starters. His defensive rating is 114. Steph Curry’s defensive rating is 112. That is the Warriors huge weakness. The Splash Brothers haven’t shown an interest nor an efficiency in stopping wing scorers and it’s been hard this season because the Warriors don’t have toughness in the middle. Zaza Pachulia tries hard but he doesn’t have the quickness, vertical or explosiveness to inhibit drivers. More is being asked of Thompson and Curry and they are giving less.

Defense Points Allowed FG % Defense 3-Point % Defense Defensive Rating
Phoenix 116.0 (30th) 46.2% (25th) 38.3% (28th) 110.3 (28th)
New Orleans 107.4 (23rd) 44.8% (15th) 36.1% (24th) 107.0 (14th)
Warriors 109.4 (27th) 44.7% (13th) 33.8% (10th) 108.6 (22nd)

Thompson has never had a defensive rating in the ballpark of 114. Last year it was 107. The year before it was 104. The year before it was 106. When he was a rookie it was 111. So this is the worst he has ever been.

His offense has similarly gone into the tank. His offensive rating is 100. When he was a rookie, his rating was 102. Last year, it was 112. The Warriors title year, it was 112. The year the Warriors lost to the Clippers in the first round, Thompson had an offensive rating of 108.

What is wrong with Klay?

Klay Points FG% 3-Point% Offensive Rating PER
2014-15 21.7 46.3% 43.9% 112 20.8
2015-16 22.1 47.0% 42.5% 112 18.6
2016-17 18.5 44.1% 31.3% 100 12.1

Klay is taking the fewest shots in two years. He is shooting his lowest percentage in three years. He is shooting a career low 31.3% from three. His PER is 12.1. How bad is that? He has been a 40%+ three point shooter since coming into the league. Last year he shot 42.5%. The year before, 43.9%.

His defensive rebounding is the lowest since his rookie year. He is a 18.5 points per game scorer, not bad. Three years ago, he ended the season with a 18.4 average. Since then it has been 21.7 and 22.1 points per game.

The only difference in the Warriors is Kevin Durant. Sometimes you lose and you win at the same time. Durant is an iconic talent and it isn’t his fault the Klay decline. It is what it is. Durant came to Oakland and Klay’s game went into the tank. Whether the two are related or not doesn’t really matter. Perception is reality.

And so that is the backdrop of the Klay Thompson trade gossip. If you can get return for his value, an athletic center and some bench pieces, it is something to think about.

The only team that makes any kind of sense is the Washington Wizards. They have a big in Marcin Gortat who can score and block shots and he runs the floor. And they have a wing in Bradley Beal. But Beal isn’t Thompson and this year he is a miserable scorer (29. 4% from three) plus he is always hurt. There isn’t a team that could give the Warriors what they are getting with Klay and a big time center too. Yes, DeMarcus Cousins would be nice but what would be the point?

That’s why Thompson will not be traded. There is no trade out there that would make sense. It would be a 2 for 1 trade and there isn’t a shooting guard and a center good enough to risk breaking up what the Warriors have built their team around. Trading Klay would make the rest of the NBA better. The Warriors would slide back a bit but they still would have two of the best three players in the league on their roster. Obviously, it would take away the Warriors backbone, what their team has been about ever since the Warriors drafted Klay from Washington State in 2011.

The Warriors and Steve Kerr have to work with what this is. A different kind of season and a different kind of team. Can their defense continue at this woeful level and still have a shot at the title? Against the Raptors on Thursday night, they gave up 38 points in the first quarter but they still won. But how much effort was expended on the first game of a four game road trip?

The Warriors best hope is waiting until after the trade deadline and seeing what kind of shape Chris Bosh is in. He solves a lot of their problems if they can get him post-waiver wire on the cheap. He is 6-11. He is athletic. He is smart. And he is eager to show that he can still play in this league.

The Warriors answer to defensive improvement is out there. They have to be patient. They have to keep Klay in the mix and they have to wait.

 

photo  via llananba