The Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson will be due a big payday in 2015 when his current rookie deal expires. Given that the Warriors pay three of their starters over $10 million already, making room for Thompson’s imminent salary increase will be difficult. Therefore, determining Thompson’s true value to the Warriors franchise is essential in order to maximize his utility and determine whether he is worth an eight-figure salary.
One question constantly batted around is whether Thompson will ever be an All-Star and if he deserves to be paid like one. To get a clearer read of how Thompson’s past performance will translate into future success and the possibility of becoming an All-Star, locating players who performed at a similar level through the first three seasons of their careers provides insight. The graph below shows seven such players in Flynn Robinson, Andrew Toney, World B. Free, Aaron Brooks, Jeff Hornacek, Brian Winters and George Thompson. All are guards, like Klay Thompson, who performed at similar levels as measured by Win Shares to Thompson in their first six seasons. Thompson’s first three seasons are also depicted, as are projections for his next three seasons based on the trends evident in years four through six of the seven comparable players.
What is evident here is that except for Hornacek, all seven players began to decline after either their third or fourth season. While six out of the seven players made All-Star teams (sorry, Aaron Brooks), only Hornacek made one after his fifth season in the NBA. All of the other players were selected to All-Star teams in their third, fourth or fifth season, or during their primes.
For Thompson, this means that if he is going to make an All-Star team, it will likely be in one of the next two seasons. It is likely that although he is only 24, Thompson has reached his prime, or will do so very soon. According to basketball-reference.com, Thompson received just the ninth-most votes for the Western Conference’s backcourt for the 2014 All-Star Game, and barring a meteoric rise into the NBA’s limelight next season, his stock among voters is unlikely to drastically change.
Thompson is not doomed, however. He plays for an up-and-coming franchise next to one of the most electric talents in the game in Stephen Curry and could boost his stock that way. Coach Steve Kerr’s renewed focus on perimeter scoring could have a huge impact on Thompson’s offensive game. He could be the next Hornacek, continuing to improve and refine his game with age instead of peaking early. While chances are Thompson will remain a fringe candidate in a loaded Western Conference, the pieces are there for him to be an All-Star.