Klay Thompson is a deadly shooting guard and he could be a great fit in New York if the Knicks miss on Kevin Durant in free agency.
The man is a former first-round pick, an excellent three-point shooter, and a three-time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors. Moreover, he has played in five consecutive All-Star Games and will be a free agent at season’s end.
And yet, like most New York sports nuts, Knicks fans are fickle. Forget Klay Thompson, we want Kevin Durant! Only Kyrie Irving can run the point! Anything except signing Durant and Irving after drafting Zion Williamson is a failed offseason!
Thankfully, unlike most New Yorkers, I’m more rational than that. Though everyone and their mother is of the belief Durant will sign with the Knicks, it is far from guaranteed. Management putting all of its eggs in one free agent’s basket, as it did with LeBron James in 2010, could horribly backfire.
Which is why the Knicks need to seriously consider Klay Thompson. He too will be eligible for a max contract at season’s end and, though Durant may be the goal, Klay Thompson should be high on New York’s wish list.
A Worthy Max Player
We’ve always known Klay Thompson could score. He averaged 17.9 points per game and was a 39% three-point shooter in three years at Washington State. He never reached the NCAA Tournament with the Cougars, but still drew plenty of attention. Golden State drafted him 11th overall in 2011, two years after picking another franchise cornerstone in Stephen Curry.
Thompson only averaged 12.5 points per game as a rookie but shot 41.4 percent from long range. His scoring prowess only got better as he gained more experience and, to this day, Thompson has never shot less than 40 percent from long range in a season. He has also shot 45.9 percent from the field as a whole, further establishing himself as a viable scoring threat.
The long and short of it is if Klay Thompson is that strong a player now, just imagine what he could be as the go-to guy on the Knicks.
Trouble in Paradise?
Klay Thompson has never been linked to the Knicks at any point, but that could change in July if recent rumors are true. Appearing on ESPN’s “First Take” on Tuesday, the infamous Stephen A. Smith claimed the All-Star shooting guard was “tired of getting the crumbs left by other people.”
That’s a pretty serious claim, if at all true. Thompson has won two of his three rings with Curry and Durant, but being the third man on the totem pole is only just becoming an issue?
That said, let’s take a deeper look at some numbers. First, Thompson’s shot attempts have not changed for the worse since Durant arrived in 2016. In fact, in the three years they’ve been teammates, Thompson has averaged 17.3 shots per game compared to 15.2 over his first five years in the league.
On top of that, Thompson was averaging 18.4 points per game for his career before Durant arrived. Fast forward to today, and that number has increased to 19.5.
But sports now live in an age of analytics, and this is where Thompson’s grievance may lie. In the 2015-16 season, a year before Durant’s arrival, he posted a VORP of 1.8. That isn’t too far above replacement level, but enough to show Klay Thompson is indeed an impact player.
Since Durant became a Warrior, however, Thompson’s VORP has dropped each year. Seeing as how this is the NBA’s equivalent of MLB’s Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, this could be problematic in the future, especially since the Warriors can only re-sign one of him or Kevin Durant.
Why the Knicks?
Now, let’s shift the conversation back to the Knicks. Klay Thompson may not be high on New York’s free agency wish list, but would still be an excellent pickup. The team has tons of cap space and desperately needs to add a big name this summer. The Kristaps Porzingis trade established that. Thompson fits that mold almost perfectly.
Think about it. Just how James Harden was in Houston after being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Thompson would be the main man. Depending on who else the Knicks added, he could easily be the biggest dog in the yard.
Now, let’s briefly switch gears back to the Golden State Warriors. Thompson has already won three rings there and is in a good position to land a fourth this summer. Assuming Durant walks and Golden State gives him a max deal, why walk away from a good situation?
It’s simple, ladies and gentlemen. Though playing for the Warriors turned Klay Thompson into a household name and a winner, one thing has always been a constant.
No matter how well he has played, no matter how much he accomplished, it has always been Steph Curry’s team and not his. In New York, he would be the one running the show.
When push comes to shove, the Knicks’ odds of landing Kevin Durant are likely stronger than them signing Klay Thompson, and that’s OK. Durant’s career resume speaks for itself and, like Thompson, he would immediately make New York a playoff team.
And just like Cinderella’s glass slipper, Thompson could be a perfect fit. His electrifying offense is what coach David Fizdale’s system needs. He isn’t an elite defender but can do a little more than hold his own on that side.
The sad part is New York fans are fickle. The team has been so bad for so long, not signing Kevin Durant in July will be filed as just another offseason disappointment. It may not seem that way, but Thompson would be just as strong a signing.
If you’ll let me close by paraphrasing Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Klay Thompson is not the hero Knicks fans deserve.
However, he is the one they need.