Stephen Curry has just completed his wondrous 6th NBA season, and as fellow GSoM fanposter Abp has recently confirmed, he is the only point guard in NBA history to have both an MVP and a Championship on his mantle in such quick time. He is an All-NBA top 5 player, he is the leader of this historical Warriors outfit and he is unquestionably Golden States golden boy. Oh, and he’s Riley’s dad too.
All of the above is true, but why do I have this nagging thought we are about to see a subtle Warrior change and evolution, an internal usurper to the golden boys crown is movin’ on up and is ready to eat a little more at the table.
Now, I’m not just talking about another fire breathing one quarter explosion, the likes of which we may never see again. I’m talking about Klay Thompson becoming “the man” and taking control from his fellow ‘best shooting backcourt in NBA history’ teammate.
Over the course of the next 24 months will Klay Thompson be able stretch that one quarter omnipresence into a full season of dominance and in the process become a genuine MVP candidate himself? It sounds premature to even suggest this. Steph Curry is the newly minted MVP and is only 26 after all, but I think Klay is pretty damn special too. We’ve all seen what it looks like when he takes over.
This question raises many more questions, not least of which is “Would a change in pecking order be detrimental to this well-oiled machine?”
My judgement may still be off because of that crazy night on January 23rd but I think the answer is no, it won’t be detrimental. I should also state for the record that my country’s Australia Day national holiday was Monday, January 26th and that whole 4 day weekend (yep, 4 days) was Klay Klay Klay mixed with many fine ales and whiskeys.
It’s encouraging to hear Klay has vowed to get to the line more next season. Does that mean he will be handling the ball more? 3.3 attempts a game is certainly low when compared to league leader and world famous salesman James Harden at 10.2. That means he’ll be looking to attack and this should help arrest a trend post All-Star break last year where he perhaps settled more than he should have and had less points in the paint, less free throws and more three’s. It also opens up a whole bunch of options for his teammates, which won’t hurt his low assist numbers. It may also create more space for him to let fly with that world class jumper as the defenders back off another inch or two.
So, possible routes would be attacking off screen action or the pick and roll.
When you look at some numbers you might find a few surprises. Klay ranked in the 72nd percentile for points per possession (PPP) as the primary ball handler in a pick and roll. While that’s not the only way too attack and it’s not a major weakness, the more he handles the rock, the less Steph handles and that’s a problem. Steph ranked in the 92nd percentile and is clearly superior. If Klay wants those free throw numbers to go up he could be given more responsibility here but you’re taking away one your major strengths. He’ll have to improve quite a bit to get more of this pie.
You may not be aware, but Klays strength is as a spot up shooter. PPP he led the league, just in front of Ashton Ku..ahhhhhh Kyle Korver. It only accounted for roughly 16% of his offensive output though. Another thing worth noting was that Klay scored the second most points in the league with off screen action and yet he wasn’t very good at it. That’s right, he was pretty bad. He shot less than 40% and ranked in the 52nd percentile for PPP. That probably tells you the majority were 3’s. He wasn’t very efficient, yet this action accounted for nearly a quarter of his offense.
Being in attack mode more often makes me think of that joyous night in January and a minor change in what type of shots Klay is taking should also see his raw numbers go up and see his efficiency increase. Perhaps a small increase in playing time, only 31.9 minutes last year, would allow him to take more shots in his preferred action without taking away from the team. He would certainly be the primary option while Steph is on the bench.
Too me, with Klay it all comes down to confidence in what he thinks he can do. While a change of coach and style of play undoubtedly helped some last year, Team USA duty certainly did wonders for Klay in 2014-2015 too. There was a realization that he had moved up a couple of rungs in the NBA pecking order.
I think he’s ready to go up quite a few more in 2015-2016.