Klay Thompson wasn’t invited to the Rookie/Sophomore Game. Ekpe Udoh wasn’t either, and he was picked earlier in the draft than Thompson a year before, but Udoh’s exclusion made sense. The plus/minus wizard hasn’t made waves, because all Udoh does is play defense.
That’s pretty much the opposite of all that the Rook/Soph Game stands for.
Then again, they only pick nine rookies for the game and Thompson was 15th amongst rookies in points per game entering Thursday’s action, and scoring is how he’s going to carve a niche in this league. Still, the way his game translates to the NBA makes Thompson look as much like a sure-thing as any rookie not named Irving or Rubio.
After scoring a career-high 19 points against the Denver Nuggets in the Warriors 109-101 road win on Thursday night, Warriors radio play-by-play announcer Tim Roye asked Thompson if his exclusion from the All-Star festivities fueled him.
“I just use it as motivation,” Thompson said.
Good sign. Some people get worked up if a player admits that certain slights motivate him, as if players are robots instead of human beings. The fact that Thompson can turn negative energy into the most positive performance of his short NBA career shows that his ceiling is high. The NBA pedigree isn’t just a human interest story with this one. It’s real.
On the same day he was left off the Rookie team, Thompson was called the No. 4 rookie of the season in Sebastian Pruiti’s latest Rookie Rankings:
Thompson is very good at moving without the basketball.
Thompson really knows how to create passing lanes for his teammates. He slides into position on the perimeter in a way that shortens the distance of his teammates’ passes to him while also giving him enough separation from his defender to get a shot off. As well as he’s shooting, more looks for Thompson would probably mean more points and more wins for the Golden State Warriors.
Roye mentioned Pruiti’s rankings after the game to Thompson, who said, “I really want to model my game after the Ray Allens, Reggie Millers.”
He could do a lot worse. In a season where Warriors fans have had little to cling onto, Thompson’s catch-and-shoot game is the equivalent of Linus’ blanket.
Maybe Joe Lacob’s kinda-sorta prediction that Thompson would win Rookie of the Year will come true after all, especially if Kyrie Irving’s concussion symptoms linger. Here’s what Thompson had to say about his ROY chances before the season started…
So Thompson’s pretty good and has NBA-translatable skills. This season he’s a valued contributor to the Warriors’ reserve unit, but what does the future hold?
Trade window: WIDE OPEN
If I were Joe Lacob I’d probably have the biggest aquarium known to man in my apartment (just because), and I definitely wouldn’t be patient with the Warriors. Lacob said Thompson was a ROY candidate, and he may have been right (just like Lacob may have been right about Jeremy Lin). Now’s the time to do something about it. Stephen Curry’s value is relatively low, even with his 36/7/7 performance in Denver.
Monta Ellis just scored 48 points against the Thunder. An impatient person would probably turn around after that game and offer Monta to every other GM for their team’s best interior scorer. For all we know, the Warriors have spent the last 24 hours doing exactly that.
The point is, the Warriors have always known they needed to choose between Curry and Ellis, and Thompson gives them the opportunity to do so without feeling like they have to trade either player directly for their own replacement. Chances are it’ll take until the off-season for a trade to occur. But for a team in dire need of flexibility, drafting Thompson and his Ray-Ray/Reggie game could be the best thing that happened to this team in 2011.