Let’s start with the raw numbers. They tell an ugly preseason Clay Thompson Story. He has fewer points (181) than shot attempts (185) in 12 games. This is the epitome of extreme inefficiency in the NBA.
The advanced analyst community prefers true shooting percentage as a measure. It balances the value of 3s, 2s, and free throws to pump out a balanced number. If you have a true shooting percentage in the mid to high 50s, you are average. If it’s 60+, you’re efficient. If your name is Stephen Curry – up to 459 points on 290 attempts in 14 games – you currently have an insane true shooting percentage of 70.1.
Thompson’s true shooting percentage is 47.1. Of the 164 players who have attempted at least 100 shots this season, this is the fourth worst. Thompson only has a higher true shooting percentage than Jabari Smith Jr., James Bouknight and Killian Hayes. Smith is a struggling rookie. Bouknight is a faltering bencher sophomore for the hornets. Hayes is the least efficient offensive player in basketball.
This numerical reality without team context creates a problem for the warrior. Smith, Bouknight and Hayes are not scorers. Thompson is. He’s shooting 15.4 shots per game, second only to the Warriors Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole. Of course, when a player is that inefficient with a 25.1 usage rate, it drags an offensive down.
But now let’s add the team context and take a closer look at Wednesday night’s third quarter in Phoenix. Defensive stops have a way of creating the needed momentum. The Warriors are currently in the last five NBA Defense. You don’t get many road stops. Therefore, if this is the case, it is important to take advantage and build up a run.
For years so many of these runs have been triggered early in the clock by a Thompson Transition 3. But Thompson is currently shooting 33 percent on 3s, the second-lowest among the 10 highest-volume shooters in the league. Only Kelly Oubre Jr. – remember him? — has a lower current 3-point percentage.
So here the Warriors are late in this third quarter, down 90-83, still in the game because Steph Curry is on track for a 50 point night. You get a defensive stop. Curry pushes the rebound into the apron. one to sunbathe The defender is behind the game and creates a five-on-four chance. Poole is wide open on the left wing. Draymond Green has Cam Payne with him. There are several areas that can be attacked and exploited.
Thompson: Not even Steph Curry’s magic can fix the warriors’ problems
But Thompson only catches and shoots with 19 on the shot clock while his teammates look on with some irritation. The miss drops Thompson to 5 out of 14 on the night.
The rushed miss caused a mismatch scramble as the Warriors hit back in transition. It had Curry guarded Deandre Ayton in the mail. But Curry has enough muscle against Ayton and the Suns center settle for a long hook, which he misses. It’s another rare defensive stop. Curry grabs another rebound and throws it at Thompson for pace.
But Thompson uses it as another opportunity to dial his own number and try to get himself started. He saunters into another long, semi-contested 3 from deep right wing while Wiggins sits wide open in the right corner. Wiggins is 9-of-19 from the corner this season.
It’s important to watch Green’s reaction below. He has Payne under the hoop again but sees Thompson fire off another early 3 clock before any sort of action materializes. This made Thompson 5-of-15. Clearly Green has had enough. The energy to scatter back into defense was drained from his body. he goes back A foul is committed. Curry hits the ball in frustration and gets a technical.
After the technical curry, Steve Kerr called a timeout. When the ESPN show returned, a mic could be heard of Kerr imploring his team to trust each other, while Curry and Green still looked a little muffled.
“It’s just a pick-up game out there,” Kerr said. “At some point there has to be a collective trust and competitiveness because everyone is trying to do it on their own.”
Kerr repeated that pick-up line in his post-game comments to reporters in Phoenix.
“To find it, we need to get everyone on board,” Kerr said. “Everyone has to be on the same page when it comes to just worrying about winning.”
Curry repeated a similar message.
“Focus on the team, whatever that means for everyone,” Curry said. “We are all built differently. We all see the game differently. But if you can focus your energy on the team, be it vocally, whether it’s with your energy or body language. Whatever the victim looks like, it usually puts them in a good mood. You can feed yourself from that. You can’t focus on the stat sheet and how it looks because that’s not how the game is played. You can’t commit to anything you want this night if you’re not focused on winning.”
Curry didn’t directly name Thompson in that answer, and the words apply to several situations that fill the roster. Individual priorities determined the struggles of these warriors at the beginning of the season. The preseason was all about contract gossip and batting. They tried force-feeding James Wiseman Minutes to get his career off the ground. There was a big difference between Jordan Poole as a starter and as a bencher. The rotation choices always feel like a choice between Dynasty Core and the next era.
But Thompson’s struggles came under a bigger spotlight on Wednesday night. The failures piled up and that ambitious and unsuccessful sequence in the third quarter seemed to be the blow that drained the life out of the Warriors.
“Klay keeps coming down trying to shoot his way out of a preseason slump every night,” Kerr told reporters in Phoenix. “He pushed tonight. The guy has a lot of weight on his shoulders with the injuries and where he’s feeling right now. We need to help Klay and help him avoid himself. If he can overcome his frustration, the game will come to him. He’s going to be fine and he’s going to play at a really high level because he still has it. Clay still has it. We know how much Klay has done for this franchise and for the Bay Area. We will help him and he will make it.”
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The Warriors quickly pivoted out of the Wiseman Experiment and pulled him from the rotation because it negatively impacted the team’s chance of winning outright. That’s the same reason Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody stay on the fringes of the rotation even though they need more repetitions to develop.
In a world without historical context, the same could be said of Thompson until he emerges from his crisis. If the second highest usage player on your team is making 35 percent of their shots, the simplest answer is to decrease usage and limit the negative impact. But the Warriors appear determined to sit out Thompson because he’s proven himself so many times in the past. The record books would indicate that this is the second best 3 point shooter in league history.
“Klay Thompson’s recordings have always been ones that you wouldn’t recommend to anyone based on his skill and the work he puts in,” said Curry. “He’s had slow starts earlier in seasons. The most important thing – we tell JP this, tell Klay this, tell me this – you have to let the game come to you. Especially when teams know if you’re starting to gain momentum, we’re tough to beat. They will likely have heightened awareness early in games due to fear of what Peak Klay looks like. So let the game come to you. Have a little patience and trust how we play as a team to get good shots. His being out there changes the game with his two feet on the ground because he needs attention no matter what the numbers. it will come Just trust it.”
(Photo above: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)