The Golden State Warriors are off to a pretty solid start to the season, having won nine out of their first 15 games. Head coach Mark Jackson has a lot to do with it as well as the much maligned Joe Lacob ownership group. It almost seems like a distant memory: the hatred Golden State fans had for Lacob not putting out a respectful team on the court and wanting to move the team from Oakland to San Francisco. However, one of the biggest reasons–outside of their relative health–for their early season success is the continued development of second year player Klay Thompson.
For those unfamiliar with Thompson’s body of work, here is a general summary of the young player: a 6’7″ shooting guard who epitomizes the early idea of the position, a straight jump shot artist. That is the generic wrap on Thompson and it’s a fair assessment. But there is much more to the former 11th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft–potential.
Potential is one of the most dangerous things in all of sports. It can get a general manager fired, a coach to lose his patience or fans to grasp for unrealistic hope. It’s also the complete opposite of those awful things. Potential can make a general manager a genius, a coach a visionary and fans thankful.
If Thompson never develops any further as a player, I think the Warriors will be just fine with that. Thompson already has the ability to score in the upper 20s any given night and has proven to be a reliable second option on offense. From his rookie season to this year, he’s become much better at grabbing rebounds and he went from a horrible defensive player to just suspect, which doesn’t sound great but it’s still improvement. Also, as a 6’7″ shooting guard, he has taken some of his offensive game to the paint thanks in large part to his improved low post skill set.
But that’s who he is right now, not what he is going to be. Outside of being a deadly shooter, he also possesses mismatch problems for nearly every team in the league. Standing at 6’7″ while being a guard does have its perks. As the NBA seems to be getting smaller at that position, Thompson towers over a lot of players who will be guarding him. To counter the size differential, coaches are now starting to throw small forwards at him to help get a hand in his face.
To deal with coaches starting to guard him differently, Thompson has to learn to create his own shot and get to the basket more. He’s showing flashes of that this season but without doing it on a consistent basis. If he can improve on driving to the basket, coaches will then be forced to make a decision: let him play his strength and shoot jumpers or let him get to the basket while possibly drawing a foul. (Additional note to drawing a foul: Thompson is a career .84 percent shooter from the charity stripe.)
Thompson has to improve on defense. Luckily for him, having Jackson as a coach could do nothing but improve it by default. Jackson was known as a pass first, smart, defensive player during his playing days. There is no doubt that’s what he’s preaching at Golden State practices and, through osmosis alone, Thompson will undoubtedly go from a suspect defender to average at the least.
All of these things he needs to improve upon are realistic goals for Thompson to accomplish. There’s nothing in his track record that tells us he doesn’t work extremely hard, nor has he been deemed uncoachable. The problem for Thompson is perception. He plays on a traditionally horrible franchise, on a team full of shooters, for an unproven head coach. Nobody wants to buy into any of the Golden State hype. In turn this makes Thompson go widely unnoticed.
Don’t believe anything I said about Thompson? Fine. You probably haven’t watched any Warrior games this year either. Do yourself a favor and find the next Golden State game available on your local picture-box station and watch. If you leave unimpressed, I’ll refund the four minutes it took you to read this article.
Well, I can’t do that. I’m not a wizard. But thanks for reading.
Joe covers the Big East for Rant Sports and NBA teams that nobody but he cares about. Follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone