Klay Thompson has evolved from a catch-and-shoot weapon to a more well-rounded player with a defensive focus, but he still has a to-do list to make him even better next season.
Thompson improved significantly between his rookie year and his second season by working hard to become the Warriors’ best perimeter defender and diversifying his offensive routine. He also worked harder to get more involved in different phases of the offense.
Klay has a high ceiling and has the worth ethic to ascend even higher. He will only be going into his third year as a professional and is still developing at the young age of 23.
He has very strong basketball roots, with his father, Mychal Thompson, being the No. 1 pick in the 1978 NBA draft. His older brother, Mychel, is currently playing in the NBA Development League, but he has also played for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Klay put on a highlight show in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs. As you can see from the video, his shot was deadly that night.
Klay scored 29 points in the first half, where he hit 11 out of 18 shots from the floor and was 7-of-8 from behind the arc. He was a man amongst boys because he also came down with 14 rebounds, three steals and a block, but he only scored five more points after halftime.
After the fireworks show in the first half of Game 2, Thompson disappeared for most of the rest of the series. He scored 17 points in the Game 3 loss, but in Games 4 and 5, he did not make a single three-pointer. He didn’t even attempt one in Game 5.
Coach Gregg Popovich made the correct adjustments and minimized Thompson’s presence. Klay needs to fight through it when he gets stuck in a lull by using his other skills.
He can set up and run a pick-and-roll, or even better with his skill set, he can set up a pick-and-pop. He can also make a defensive play to change the momentum in the game.
He is a key component of this young and athletic basketball team, as he is one of the “Splash Brothers." Thompson was on the floor for an average of 35.8 minutes this season, an uptick from the 24.4 minutes that he received as a rookie.
He started all 82 games for the Warriors as he averaged 16.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 2.6 threes. His shooting percentages dipped from his rookie season, probably because of all the extra minutes and the increased amount of shots he was taking.
Thompson will need to rely on his strengths, but he will also need to change the pace every so often. Instead of being the spot-up shooter, he will need to drive to the hoop, make layups or create scoring opportunities.
Start to Convert the “Klay-ups”
Speaking of layups, Klay has a penchant of bricking or missing his easy opportunities at the net. So, his unfinished layups earned the nickname “Klay-ups."
As you can see from the video, there is no soft touch and no hope of the ball falling into the basket.
He needs to work very hard this summer to learn how to use a soft touch at the rim. Instead of being content to just reach the rim, he needs to use the same tools as Steph Curry and finish his drives to the bucket.
It will take practice and regular-season success to get him comfortable with this practice, but if he can master the layup, he will significantly improve his offensive game.
If he can make the conversion, defenders will have that doubt in the back of their mind that Klay might take it to the rack. The more consistently he can complete the finish, the more room he will have to operate when he gets the ball.
Here is a good example of Klay finishing at the rim without any doubt.
Use the National Team Experience to His Benefit
With his size, wingspan, length and athleticism, Thompson has significantly improved on defense and is the Warriors' main lockdown defender. He succeeded in his confrontations against Bryant this season and will need to bring that experience to the quicker and smaller guards he will face next season.
Finally, Klay needs to focus on attacking the basket more. He is one of the best shooters in the game, but in order to create more room for those shots, he needs to drive to the bucket.
Just like Curry, he needs to earn more trips to the foul line. This season, he averaged only 1.9 free-throw attempts per game.
He has a large, lanky frame that could easily draw more foul shots if he tried. Compared to other shooting guards, he was last in the league in free-throw attempts.
He needs to start faking the jumper and put the ball on the floor in order to draw the foul. He is a very solid shooter from the charity stripe, where he hits an average of 84.1 percent.
Klay is still a very young player with tons of upside. He will continue to grow and utilize his high basketball IQ.
He is still developing with his explosive guard partner, Steph Curry. If Thompson can mature faster than expected, he should put the Warriors in a real solid position to contend for an NBA title.