Klay Thompson shows his value as defensive stopper in NBA Finals
Throughout his years as a professional, Klay Thompson has been known to do one thing for the Golden State Warriors: shoot.
And boy, did he shoot a lot.
Just last December in the regular season, he famously lit up the Oracle Arena for 60 points on 21-33 shooting (8-14 3PT) in just 29 minutes. What was supposed to be an easy, sleepy matchup against the equally sleep-inducing Indiana Pacers became a flat-out embarrassing walloping for the delight of the people of Oakland. He was literally on catch-and-shoot mode, as he only took 11 dribbles the whole game.
However, all that happened while their new superstar Kevin Durant was watching from the sidelines with an injury. There were enough offensive touches for everyone, just like it always had been in Golden State.
Then everything changed when Durant came back for the playoffs. The touches on offense did not stagnate, far from it, but an exceptional talent like the former MVP from Oklahoma instinctively demanded for the lion’s share.
That’s where Thompson got lost. The MVP duo of Stephen Curry and Durant flowed on offense like a calm mountain stream – harmonious and beautiful, while Thompson sat on the banks throwing rocks. He needed offense to be relevant, unlike his fellow star Draymond Green who was a walking Swiss Army Knife and wasn’t relied on to score from the very beginning anyway.
Born from an internal struggle to help out his peers – even during an undefeated streak – Thompson turned to the one thing that Golden State still has room for him: defense.
As if their roster was already unfair enough, Golden State instantly found results from their new defensive stalwart. Like his offensive prowess, Thompson immediately caught fire on his new assignment and the numbers showed a significant change.
For the regular season, which Durant was away from for an extended period of time, the Warriors’ opponents had an offensive rating of 104.1 when the offense-first Thompson was on the court and 104.4 when he was off it. Also, their turnover ratio hardly changed from 15.6 when he’s on the court and 15.4 when he was off.
However, during the playoffs with a now defense-first Thompson, the Warriors huge improvements on defense. With Thompson off the court, their opponents had a 105.9 offensive rating and a 12.5 turnover ratio. With him playing, their offensive rating plummets to 100.9 and their turnover ratio jumps to 15.0. This -5.0 effect Thompson has on the opponent’s offensive rating immediately catapults him as the third-best defender on the Warriors behind established defensive presences such as Green (-16.7) and Zaza Pachulia (-10.7)
In comparison, Curry is a -4.0 and Durant is even a +5.7, meaning that opponents actually score better with him on defense. In last year’s playoffs which they ultimately lost, Thompson was a +3.0 defender, which simply means that he was bad at it.
For numbers on a more observable basis, Thompson was tasked to guard literally everyone in Game 1 of the finals, which they won 113-91. Of the 12 shots the Cavaliers took with Thompson as the defensive assignment, they only sank one shot. One out of 12. That’s what you call clamping down.
Dizzying numbers aside, Thompson’s teammates have taken notice of his improved commitment on the defensive end. Green, their leading Defensive Player of the Year candidate had high praise:
“We want him to keep shooting, and we know he will. But his defense the entire playoffs has been spectacular. That’s huge.”
“You just are looking and waiting for that game of where he just goes off [on offense]. But if that game never comes and he continues to play the defense that he’s been playing, we should be just fine.”
But perhaps the most important part of all this is Thompson’s acceptance of his new role, and from the looks of things, he’s taking the new job quite well.
“I can’t worry about that,” Thompson said when asked about his offensive struggles. “I play hard on both sides of the ball. I play as hard as I can. Even when I’m missing shots, that’s one thing I control is my defense. [I] try to be effective even when it looks like I’m ineffective out there.”
So there you have it folks. The 2-0 Golden State Warriors now have a secondary defensive anchor who could still lend a hand on a few threes whenever needed, as evidenced with his 22-point showing in their 132-113 repeat blowout of the Cavaliers.
Let’s just skip the formalities and ready the champagne. No way this team is blowing another 3-1 lead. – Rappler.com