Why Not Klay?

When Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors, and after the shock wore off, and after all the shade, there was a lot of Poor Klay going around the water cooler, imagining the changing identity of the Warriors second most important offensive player. Now he was going to be demoted. It made sense on paper that Klay would be the odd man out, persona non grata. The conventional wisdom was that Steph and KD would get a lot of the shots- okay most of them. So where would that leave Klay Thompson, somewhere in no-man’s land, a forgotten star who was reduced to begging for the ball. Plenty of those in the know opined that Klay’s All-Star days would be gone. Over. He would be a third or fourth option, barely squeaking out 12 points a game. He would be an innocent bystander in the Steph-Durant slaying of the NBA.

But, now that we have seen a quick glimpse of the Kevin Durant integration into the Warriors offense, a different picture is starting to emerge. No one can say with full certainty who is going to be the leading scorer. No one can say who is going to get the last shot. No one can say who grabs the headlines. It may be Klay, it may be Steph, it may be KD. The beauty of this team- and what makes it work- is that all three players are unselfish and are willing to allow each other to shine. No one needs to be the star of each and every game, to be the most important player. Whoever has the open shot takes it. Whoever is doubled, passes it. It’s really that simple.

Or is it?

Does Klay have the most to lose so he has to adjust the most?

Not according to Durant who sees himself as the outsider. The Warriors have had a three year party and now he wants to crash. He has to learn everything from the ground up but he is Kevin Durant. He understood and accepted what he was getting into; there was going to be a learning curve.

It is entirely possible and plausible that Klay Thompson leads the Warriors in scoring in 2016-17. Think about it. Klay is the only one who won’t get doubled. He’s going to have a lot of open shots. Last season, without Durant, with defenses forced to pay attention to him, Klay had four 40 point games and thirteen 30 point games. He shot 47%, a career high. His 42.5% from three was slightly down from his career high the year before of 43.9%. Three of the last four years he has played in 82, 81 and 80 regular season games. The other year, he played in 77 regular season games. He doesn’t get injured.

Factoring in his durability, his scoring talent, his genius at making perimeter shots that feel like layups and his lack of fear, plus playing with Kevin Durant who is going to create open looks possession after possession, this could be Klay Thompson’s greatest year.

His career high in scoring was last season at 22.1. Bets are being taken at that rising to 25 points a game with the increase in wide open shots. Klay has had only one year of a PER over 20. That also should change in 2016-17.

What distinguishes Klay from other shooting guards around the league is his willfulness and toughness. Although he wants to have fun, he is also edgy and serious. He heard what everyone was saying about him and he is at the front of the line of wanting to prove everyone wrong. Klay has a lot of loner rebel in him; he can be prickly. Tell him he isn’t going to do something and that is all the motivation that he needs.

Chris Bosh was an All-Star before LeBron James but LeBron made Bosh a better player. Klay Thompson was an All-Star before Kevin Durant but KD may be the best thing to ever happen to Klay Thompson.

 

photo via llananba