Klay Thompson has put up some ugly shooting numbers over the past few weeks, but nothing worse than Friday night’s 3-for-20 brick-fest in Utah. The Warriors won the game despite Thompson’s cold shooting, but offensively Thompson isn’t playing nearly as well as people thought he might after starting out the season on fire.
Thompson went off on opening night, shooting a net-blistering 15-for-19 from the field (5-of-7 on threes) in Golden State’s rout of the Lakers. Thompson had 38 points in that game, the first of four 30-point performances in the Warriors’ first 21 games. He hasn’t scored 30 points in a game since, and his monthly splits show a downward trend as far as shooting numbers are concerned.
- Oct/Nov (17 games): 48.3 FG%, 45.0 3p%, 60.9 TS%
- December (16 games): 42.9 FG%, 36.8 3P%, 52.8 TS%
- January (15 games): 38.4 FG%, 40.9 3P%, 49.8 TS%
A couple things have stayed constant over the first few months of the season — Thompson plays 38 minutes per game no matter how well (or poorly) he’s shooting, and he generally draws the most difficult defensive assignment based on the guards the Warriors face on a particular night.
“He does so much on the floor. The other day he struggled shooting the basketball, but he’s defending Gordon Hayward, a guy who can take over games and a guy that’s going to make a lot of money. Klay did a very good job of not letting him take over the game.”
The defensive assignments won’t get any easier, not with Stephen Curry as his backcourt mate. In our most recent BASGcast with Daniel Leroux, we all agreed that playing guys over 35 minutes per game probably isn’t sustainable given how rigorous the NBA schedule is for teams and players. Whether or not what we discussed is true, Thompson’s minutes probably aren’t going to change — although Jackson recently started putting in Harrison Barnes for Thompson as his first substitution, instead of Barnes going in for Andre Igudala.
Curry has some advice for Thompson on how to handle playing so many minutes (Thompson is tied for fourth in minutes played with 37.9 per game; Curry is right behind him at 37.7 mpg).
“It’s his third year and he’s played a lot of minutes and had some responsibilities on both sides of the floor. Just to make sure he understands he’s going to get heavy legs at a couple times during the season. Just push through it,” said Curry. “Know that if he does what he’s got to do off the court to get back rejuvenated for each game, with his legs, he’ll get back to that level of production we’re used to.”
Curry is first in threes made this year with 153, and Thompson is in second with 142. The former described how shooters like Thompson and himself shy away from using the s-word.
“Everybody goes through some slumps. It’s going to happen. Everybody else can say it’s a slump, but as players we’re never going to say we’re in a slump. You always feel like that next shot is going in,” said Curry.
“Obviously in Utah he definitely thought it was (going in). That’s the confidence I would expect him to have, I’d have the same.”
Jackson said he never questions Thompson’s ability or shot selection. In fact, he praised Thompson in a way reminiscent to when he called Curry and Thompson the best shooting backcourt in the history of the game during the 2013 postseason.
“I get tweets and people saying, ‘Put him on the bench.’ Not going to happen,” Jackson said.
“He’s a heck of a player with a tremendous start to his career. He’s a top five shooting guard in the world.”
— Jackson said David Lee and Jermaine O’Neal “both practiced and looked fine. So we’ll see how they feel tomorrow and go from there.”
— I asked Jackson how he felt about Harrison Barnes handled starting in place of Lee, who missed Friday’s game in Utah with shoulder and hip pain.
“I thought he was very good. Obviously his numbers shooting-wise weren’t good either. He battled, competed, he defended, he was aggressive. I thought he did a very good job filling in and putting us in a position to win a game on the road.”
Barnes went 2-for-10 in that game, but he does seem to be playing a bit more assertively as of late. We’ll see tomorrow evening if he gets another shot to start with Charlotte coming to town.