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Profile of a Shooter: Klay Thompson

Apr 24, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) runs along the sideline after scoring a three point shot against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second quarter of game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe we all knew Klay Thompson was destined to get paid. Perhaps it was inevitable. After all, he’s a young 18-point scorer on a playoff team with lethal range. Those stats still matter. He was a lottery pick that had piqued the interests of teams earlier than Golden State at No. 11 in the 2011 draft. This development should have been somewhat predictable.

But, perhaps because I’m from the Midwest, I never necessarily expected the crazed hoopla surrounding Klay Thompson that we’ve seen this summer. Of course, his narrative is now irrevocably intertwined with that of Kevin Love. (To note: Love is only a year and a half older than Thompson despite being drafted in 2008, not 2011.) The Warriors have reportedly refused to include Klay in these much-discussed trade talks. Now, we can look at what the Austin Clemens shot charts have to say about Klay.

There you have it. The shot chart of a player that is a sure bet to receive the rookie mini-max extension (a la Gordon Hayward’s four-year $63 million deal) next summer. What does Thompson do well? Shoot. He shoots a lot. He doesn’t provide that significant of value elsewhere. His 535 threes attempted were third-most in the league last year — behind only his teammate Stephen Curry (615) and Portland’s Damian Lillard (554).

Klay shot an outstanding 41.7% on those attempts. The league average is 36.0%. So before we get too upset about any possible contract or the nuances behind his shooting percentage, just hold on to that fact. It’s important to remember that Klay provided an additional 91.7 points compared to the league average on threes alone last season.

One of the fun parts of Austin’s charts is to analyze a player’s career arc. Here, we can view Klay’s three NBA seasons in one spectacular GIF:

Klay Thompson GIF

His three-point shooting strengths in the 2013-14 season are almost inversed from the 2011-12 season. As a rookie, the right wing and left corner were his most efficient spots. Now, it has become the left wing and the right corner. Why could that be the case? Recall that Curry played only 722 minutes in 2011-12. Then, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green joined the fold the next season. Those changes likely altered the dynamics of where Klay ended up with the ball.

One of the most important things to glean from Klay’s stats are his very high assisted rates. He was assisted on 62.2% of two-pointers (league average is 51.8%) and 94.3% of three-pointers (league average is 83.7%). He doesn’t create the bulk of his own looks. That is potentially an issue if he’s not playing alongside a dynamic ballhandler like Curry.

For his career, Klay Thompson has shot only 23.8% (26-for-109) on threes via isolation and pick-and-roll ballhandling situations, per Synergy Sports Technology. That is quite troubling, not just the efficiency but also the lack of opportunities. I’d worry about how well he could play without the threat of Curry. As talented as Ricky Rubio might be over in Minnesota, he doesn’t scare away defenders inside or outside.

How much better was Klay Thompson than say, 33-year-old Kyle Korver? Both have very assisted field goal make rates. Both have pretty solid defensive skills within a system (Klay certainly showcased them during the playoffs). Both are very good shooters. Thompson has far more long-term potential, but could he do it on his own? Is that even close to a good value at upwards of $16 million per year?

Jacob Rosen

I'm just a kid from Akron, Ohio, Currently, I'm a sports business MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can find my online writings at WaitingForNextYear and SportsAnalyticsBlog. Follow me on Twitter at @WFNYJacob.

  • mgbode

    Jacob, Klay’s net on-court/off-court contributions look impressive on offense (and slightly positive on defense as well), but given Curry’s jaw-dropping statistics on the offense when he is on the floor vs. off for the offense and the time they spend on the floor together, it seems a flawed statistic.

    Do you have access to the stats of Curry-off-court and Klay on-court v. off-court on the offensive efficiency? Or does that make the sample size too small?

    • George

      nbawowy.com has that info (as well as a whole bunch of other goodies), but for some reason, the site is down at this very moment. Hopefully, it’s back up soon

      • mgbode

        Thanks.

    • WFNYJacob

      All stats via NBAWowy.com (incl. playoffs):

      With Klay, no Steph: 500 mins, 97.8 ORtg, 99.6 DRtg, -1.8 Net
      With Steph, no Klay: 522 mins, 106.2 ORtg, 104.1 DRtg, +2.1 Net
      With Klay & Steph: 2,619 mins, 114.2 ORtg, 104.0 DRtg, +10.2 Net

      • Spectator

        It might be hard to glean a lot from these splits, as Mark Jackson was a fan of the hockey style substitutions, subbing out nearly the entire lineup for the bench. How else can you explain the 12 point jump in ORtg with Klay and Steph on the court vs just Steph on the court. I have a hard time believing Klay makes that big of an impact next to Steph offensively.

  • Guest

    nbawowy.com has that info (as well as a whole bunch of other goodies), but for some reason, the site is down at this very moment

  • Mick Stewart

    Interesting that you go through this analysis and make the comparison to Korver who is actually a far superior shooter. Korvers EFG% 62.6 and True Shooting% is 65.3 vs. Klay’s who is EFG 53.3 and 55.5. Factor is that Korver is a better rebounder, better assists and turns the ball over less a clear picture appears. The only thing Klay does more of is foul and shoot. Korver is a better 2pt, 3pt and foul shooter.