Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson's Team USA Experience Will Pay off for Warriors

BILBAO, SPAIN - AUGUST 28: Teammates Stephen Curry #4 and Klay Thompson #5 of the USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice for the FIBA World Cup at Bizkaia Arena in Bilbao Exhibition Centre on August 28, 2014 in Bilbao, Spain.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
Jim CavanContributor IAugust 29, 2014

Of all the NBA teams that could use one more mini-leap from their two best players to launch themselves squarely into the championship conversation, the Golden State Warriors—with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson—fit the bill best.

Luckily for them, the two will have three full weeks of FIBA Basketball World Cup experience at their backs heading into training camp.

Entering the tournament ranked No. 1 in the world, Team USA will look to capture its fourth consecutive gold medal in international competition. 

Despite a loaded backcourt, Curry and Thompson both stand to figure heavily into the rotationparticularly after head coach Mike Krzyzewski eschewed the likes of John Wall, Damian Lillard and Kyle Korver in lieu of more frontcourt depth.

BILBAO, SPAIN - AUGUST 29:  Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski of the USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice for the FIBA World Cup at Bilbao Arena on August 29, 2014 in Bilbao, Spain.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by d
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Judging by Krzyzewski’s recent rotational strategy, it seems likely Curry will get the starting nod in a three-guard backcourt along with James Harden and Kyrie Irving.

Thompson, meanwhile, has regularly been one of the first players off the Team USA bench—he presents a combination of perimeter defense and shooting tailor-made for the FIBA game.

Based on some recent examples of international competition helping to propel players to career years, that’s good news indeed for Warriors fans.

Take Carmelo Anthony. Following a stellar showing at the 2012 London Olympics, the perennial All-Star registered then-career highs in player efficiency (24.8) and three-point shooting (37.9 percent).

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: Carmelo Anthony #15 and LeBron James #6 of the US Men's Senior National Team celebrates against Spain during their Men's Gold Medal Basketball Game on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the North Greenwich Arena on Aug
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

Ditto for LeBron James, whose PER (31.6), true shooting percentage (64.0 percent) and three-point shooting (40.6 percent) all finished near or above career highs.

Four years earlier, it was Chris Paul who registered yet-to-be-topped marks in PER (30.0), true shooting percentage (59.9 percent) and assist rate (54.5 percent).

Or how about Tim Duncan? After a disappointing bronze-medal finish at the 2004 Athens Games, he went on to average 23.6 points and 12.2 rebounds over 23 playoff games en route to capturing the San Antonio Spurs’ third NBA title the following summer.

Even Derrick Rose, whose return has commanded the lion’s share of attention in the days and weeks leading up to Team USA’s gold-medal gambit, authored an MVP season in 2010 following his first FIBA run—the same year that Lamar Odom, Rose’s teammate that summer, captured the Sixth Man of the Year Award.

A World of Improvement
Player (Season)Points prior (Points after)ReboundsAssistsTS%PER
Carmelo Anthony (2012-13)22.6 (28.7)6.3 (6.9)3.6 (2.6).525 (.560)21.1 (24.8)
LeBron James (2012-13)27.1 (26.8)7.9 (8.0)6.2 (7.3).605 (.640)30.7 (31.6)
Derrick Rose (2010-11)20.8 (25.0)3.8 (4.1)6.0 (7.7).532 (.550)18.6 (23.5)
Lamar Odom (2010-11)10.8 (14.4)9.8 (8.7)3.3 (3.0).533 (.589)15.9 (19.4)
Chris Paul (2008-09)21.1 (22.8)4.7 (5.5)11.6 (11.0).576 (.599)28.3 (30.0)
Basketball-Reference

Such increased production isn’t necessarily true across the board, of course.

Still, there’s enough evidence to suggest at least a connection between players suiting up for international competition and better preparedness and production during the subsequent NBA season.

That Curry and Thompson stand to parlay plenty of time in tandem over the next three weeks into the regular season should only heighten the excitement of Warriors fans.

In an interview with LetsGoWarriors' Ryan Brown, Curry underscored the almost osmotic quality of practicing with players who, just a few weeks from now, will go back to being bitter rivals:

Really it’s nothing specific, when you are around great talent great minds you are going to get better just by surrounding yourself with those kinds of people. There are so many great minds and basketball IQ’s that you are going to become a better player and a better presence by being here…Everyone is going to get better in some shape or form and they can tell you better once we get back what it exactly was.

Thompson, too, has been quick to tout the tremendous wealth of knowledge offered by Team USA.

"I tried to pick up a lot of stuff from Kyle [Korver], who I shot with a lot recently when he was on Team USA,” Thompson told Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling. “He's great at moving without the ball.”

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 11: Steve Kerr, Head Coach of the Golden State Warriors looks on during the game against the Charlotte Hornets at the Samsung NBA Summer League 2014 on July 11, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User
Jack Arent/Getty Images

Facing a season in which the Warriors will be marshaled by first-year head coach Steve Kerr, Curry and Thompson’s Team USA experience—which will doubtless include plenty of time manning the backcourt in tandem—is all the more important from a chemistry standpoint.

A noted disciple of the legendary Phil Jackson, Kerr has been hard at work installing what he referred to, in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami, as a kind of hybrid triangle—an offense predicated on precise spacing and constant ball movement.

As Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes detailed in a recent column, that’s great news for Golden State’s shooters:

The beauty of Kerr's proposed system is that it draws as much from the Triangle as it does the San Antonio Spurs' "motion weak" offense—which features nonstop movement, attacks and counters—all designed to get defenders on their heels in space. That means a play stymied on the strong side won't kill a Warriors possession this year. Instead, the ball will swing back to the weak side, where actions start afresh.

The ball won't stick, isolations will disappear and aimless dribbling will be vastly reduced.

Even if Krzyzewski’s system isn’t exactly steeped in triangle principles, added reps for Thompson and Curry—to say nothing of their forthcoming acquaintance with a wide variety of international systems and styles—are almost certain to pay immediate and lasting dividends for Kerr and the Warriors.

ESPN.com indicates Golden State was one of just five teams to chart top-12 finishes in both offensive and defensive efficiency last season.

With elite defenders in Thompson, Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala in the fray, the Warriors should, in theory, remain top-tier talents in that department.

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 1: Stephen Curry #30 and Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena on May 1, 2014 in Oakland
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Taking the next step on offense, however, could mean the difference between yet another second-round exit and a legitimate shot at Western Conference supremacy.

In the wake of Paul George’s gruesome injury, there’s been no shortage of criticism suggesting the NBA take a good, hard look at what is, financially speaking, a one-sided relationship with the FIBA powers that be. Some of it is fair and warranted.

At the same time, Team USA competition has, for many, served as an indispensible piece to their development as players—not only on the international stage, but in the NBA as well.

Vying for international glory won’t guarantee Curry and Thompson an NBA championship. But if history is any harbinger, Warriors fans can look forward to FIBA gold paying off handsomely in the campaign to come.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

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