By Justin Taylor
Outside the fragile ankles of Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut the biggest X factor for the 2013 Golden State Warriors and beyond is Klay Thompson. The only consistency that Thompson has shown this season has been in his blank stares and slumped shoulders. I’ve probably had too much fun at Klay’s expense in this space, on Twitter and Facebook so far this season but it’s not because I don’t like him. Just because I rail on his body language, his shot selection and his decision making doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s vital to the future success of this team. I’m just not sure at this moment if the Warriors would be better served by waiting for him to fulfill his potential or by cashing in on him in a trade to raise the ceiling of this roster.
The lack of personality on display at all times is a key component of the unintentional comedy aspect in Klay’s game. He hasn't endeared himself to anyone and seem as though his own team; who seems to get behind everyone else at all times; has fully embraced him. It doesn’t help when you hear reports (substantiated or not) from behind the scenes that he feels he should get more touches or when his daddy does so publicly. All of the preseason Most Improved Player hype may have been the worst thing for him and for all of us because everyone wanted it to happen so badly.
Klay doesn't even take his eyes off the rim during post game interviews
When the We Believe Warriors took down the Mavericks in ’07 they did it with a crafty defensive scheme and a barrage of three pointers. Does anyone dispute that they couldn’t pull off a similar feat this year if they draw the right matchup right around the time that Steph and Klay lose consciousness from behind the arc? This isn’t a team that creates a ton of match up problems for the opposition but they are more than capable of demoralizing opponents for a week straight with a handful of well timed three point daggers. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Curry will get hot when it matters but if Thompson follows suit at the right time no team in the playoffs is safe.
At the same time, can anyone say with complete confidence that our young sharpshooter won’t try to do too much and end up just fumbling away a couple of postseason games? There aren’t many players in the entire league getting the type of minutes and opportunities that he is who have made more boneheaded plays. Just this week Grantland.com published some of the most detailed statistical analysis from STATS Inc. I have ever seen that says Klay turns the ball over when he drives 16% of the time. Of the 15 teams that use the STATS technology that allows them to track such data that is the absolute worst turnover rate in the league. That article pretty much just confirmed the eyeball test most of us have been conducting.
At times it looks like Klay's body language is straight out of the movie Friday
There seems to be some sort of disconnect in what exactly Mark Jackson means when he says that Klay has the ultimate green light. He’s an absolute knock down shooter so it’s obvious why the coach is constantly trying to build his confidence by encouraging him to shoot more. I just wonder what the conversations about pump faking, swinging the ball and getting teammates involved sound like. Every single touch does not need to end in a shot and while we all want him to attack the rim more (in spite of the STATS inc. article) his insistence on doing just that has made him the biggest lighting rod of criticism since Antawn Jamison.
The fact is that everything he does, good or bad, needs to be taken with a grain of salt because (clearing my throat to queue up my best Mark Jackson voice) at the end of the day, this kid has one full season’s worth of starts under his belt. (Now I’ll queue up most ESPN personalities so I can say) Oh! And by the way he just celebrated his 23rd birthday on Thursday (when he was absolutely atrocious against the Grizzlies)! To blame anything that goes wrong with this team on him is just wrong at this point. It’s not like he was a top 3 pick in a loaded draft. He came into this league with one surefire NBA skill and his shooting hasn’t disappointed.
If he learns his role and becomes a more efficient player it could be as a key contributor. If he doesn’t figure it out his biggest contribution to the Warriors might be the same as that of Monta Ellis where what he brings back in a trade outweighs anything he could do on the court. There is a path to a championship that Joe Lacob has traveled when the Celtics traded for KG and Thompson figures to be a big part of that in one capacity or another.
Either Danny Ainge, Bill Simmons or both have queued up the trade machine to see how a Paul Pierce Klay Thompson deal would work since Rondo went down. Pierce could actually make us a contender this year but it would be a small window that is closing fast. The conversation is moot unless Ainge calls Bob Myers and offers to swap Pierce and Richard Jefferson’s AARP cards if he’ll throw in Klay’s Student ID card. The Warriors have a perfect storm of potential coming on right now. They have competent management, more assets then they’ve had in decades and the ability to deal from a position of strength for the first time seemingly ever. Using the trade machine is so much more fun when it’s done out of pleasure as opposed to the usual Golden State cocktail of panic, desperation and necessity.
Still looking at the rim...
For his part, Thompson’s trade value is still relatively high but the problem is that part of that value rests with his rookie contract. That means in order to move him for something that would actually upgrade the starting lineup he’d have to be packaged with someone else to make the money match up in a swap. That would in turn reduce the overall valuation of the bundle and interest from a possible trade partner. In the interest in saving you time I’ve gone ahead and spent some time trying to find guys that would upgrade the Warriors starting lineup.
We all assume that this team can only get better but that may be tough when two of this season's biggest contributors; Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry; are gone next season. y goal was to improve this team's chances this year. Here’s what I came up with:
Klay Thompson for Paul Pierce
Prognosis: This trade is all about what you think the Warriors can accomplish this year. Pierce would mesh perfectly with Curry, Lee and Bogut while upgrading the starting lineup with championship experience, versatility and supreme basketball IQ. He is overpaid at this point but his contract expires at the same time as Jefferson’s so it’s no like you’re adding any long term payroll on either side. For Boston’s part they’d get some pieces that won’t be collecting social security when Rondo returns.
Who hangs up the phone first: Celtics. Danny Ainge will not get an offer that includes this amount of youth, potential and cap savings for the aging vet from anywhere else. There is a chance that Draymond Green’s name might put it over the top but that’s when Bob Myers hangs up the phone.
Klay Thompson for Ben Gordon
Jeremy Tyler Hakim Warrick
Prognosis: Ben Gordon is another guy who would add veteran savvy and playoff experience without downgrading the floor spacing that Klay provides to the starting lineup. It may be a step down in size, defense and rebounding but it still Gordon is still a better backcourt mate for Steph Curry than Monta Ellis due to his ball handling, decision making and long range shooting. Hakim Warrick would also provide a cheap option for the Warriors off the bench next season when Carl Landry more than likely accepts an offer for more money elsewhere. For the Bobcats part, they’re already trying to move Gordon and this wouldn’t satisfy their motivation to save money but Klay would give them the young shooter that they will desperately need to add to their core of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker.
Who hangs up the phone first: Warriors. Ben Gordon is past his prime and isn’t a guaranteed upgrade past this season but it’s close and not as far off as you might think.
Richard Jefferson for Kevin Durant
Prognosis: Just Kidding…
Klay Thompson for OJ Mayo
Charles Jenkins Shawn Marion
Prognosis: Wouldn’t it be ironic if Klay Thompson ended up getting dealt for the guy that generated Monta Ellis trade rumors for years. Mayo is yet another seemingly undersized option to play alongside Curry but he brings so much more to the table than Klay. He offers identical rebounding numbers, gets more steals, would allow Curry play off the ball more, gets to the rim and get this…he’s shooting a higher percentage from downtown this season. The rub here would be that even though Mayo is only making $4 million this season you’d have to give him a raise the minute you trade for him or risk watching him walk for nothing next season and we all know Bob Myers isn’t doing that.
Who hangs up the phone first: Dallas. The Shawn Marion downgrade would probably be the biggest hang up on this one for Mark Cuban due to the “Why in the hell would we want Richard Jefferson?” factor. If you pare down the deal to just Mayo for Thompson/Jenkins/Jeremy Tyler you MIGHT be a little closer to the mark.