2019 NBA Free Agents: Klay Thompson
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As if there was any doubt about Klay Thompson’s value, one-half of the Splash Brothers had yet another excellent postseason run during the 2019 NBA Playoffs that cemented his status as the premier free agent shooting guard in the 2019 class. His season didn’t at all end as he expected, with both him and his Golden State Warriors going down in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Thompson suffered a torn ACL during the middle of the third quarter and, having scored 30 points up to that moment, was dearly missed by the Warriors, who were unable to force a Game 7.
Regular Season Stats: 21.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 1.5 turnovers on 46.7 FG%, 40.2 3PFG%, and 81.6 FT%.
Postseason Stats: 20.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks, 1.8 turnovers on 45.6 FG%, 44.3 3PFG%, and 90.2 FT%.
Klay’s strengths are well-documented. As one of the elite shooters in the league capable of knocking down all sorts of looks from open to contested to pull-up to step back jumpers from both inside and outside the three-point line, Thompson possesses one of the most sought-after skills in the modern NBA. He is an efficient volume scorer capable of going off on any given night. Klay is also fairly good at the rim, improving at driving every year up to this past season’s 69.3% career-best shooting clip within four feet of the basket, per Cleaning the Glass. At 6-foot-7, he is a long and disciplined defender that can guard the opposition’s best perimeter player and stay in front of him all game long. His durability and stamina are also elite, with Thompson playing in 615 out of 640 possible career regular season games (and at least half of the amount he’s missed are due to rest and load management) and not missing a single Playoff game out of 124 contests in his career up to these past NBA Finals, where he sat out Game 3.
Thompson is not much of a dribbler or playmaker, though we should expect to see very little of these areas on display considering he plays alongside Stephen Curry. Given he’s usually one of the first men out on fastbreaks, he is also not a magnificent rebounding guard at 6-foot-7. Due to his jumpshot-centric offense, Klay barely shoots free throws. Thompson was only fouled in 4.8% of his shots this past year, 25th percentile among wing players, per Cleaning the Glass. And given how good of a free throw shooter he is, he could easily look for extra points at the foul line. Finally, and as more of a situational weakness, he is not expected to be ready for the start of the 2019-20 regular season. So whichever team picks him up this offseason will be without Klay’s services for some time, as ACL injuries should be dealt with very carefully.
Thompson is ideally a second option on the offensive end given he does not excel at creating shots for himself or for his teammates. If you can pair him alongside a good playmaker and some big men that are willing and know how to set good screens, Klay will continue thriving with his off-ball movement, which generates most of his open looks and also helps pull away defenders from his teammates. We also already know what he brings on the defensive end.
Possible Landing Spots:
Golden State Warriors: Thompson and the Warriors have some unfinished business, entering the season as heavy favorites to win the 2019 NBA Finals but failing due to injuries and lack of depth. The fact this is the team in which he turned himself into the top 3-and-D star in the league, the chemistry he has with fellow Splash Brother, Stephen Curry, and considering no team can offer him more money, the Warriors are certainly a prime landing spot.
Los Angeles Lakers: If the front office gets creative and finds a way to shed some extra space, the Lakers will have a max-contract roster spot available. Thompson should be one of their primary targets, as he is no stranger to playing with two superstars and his style of play perfectly complements that of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Not as relevant but still worth pointing out, his father Mychal Thompson was a Laker for four-and-a-half years and won two championships with them in 1987 and 1988.
Expected Next Contract:
I expect Thompson to continue playing in a Golden State Warriors jersey after he receives a five-year maximum contract offer from the only team he’s ever played for. The move makes the most sense for both sides considering how much success they’ve had together and how young Thompson still is. Assuming he signs elsewhere, he is not leaving unless he’s offered a four-year max deal.