Klay Thompson: Comparing This Season’s Stats to Last Season’s
The 2014-15 NBA season was the best season of Klay Thompson‘s young career. He averaged 21.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists on 46.3 percent shooting from the field and 43.9 percent shooting from three-point range. He was named to his first NBA All-Star Game, and he started the All-Star Game alongside his Splash Brother, Stephen Curry. In addition, he had his record-breaking 37-point quarter, and he was a key contributor to the Golden State Warriors‘ title run last year.
Many expected Thompson to be even better this season with more confidence and experience under his belt heading into his fifth NBA season. He hasn’t had a poor season so far by any means, but he hasn’t appeared to be quite as lethal as he was last season.
So far this season, Thompson is averaging 15.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists on 44.4 percent shooting from the field and 38.6 percent shooting from three-point range. Clearly, his overall field goal percentage and his three-point percentage is down from last season, but why is that?
There are a few reasons for this “slump.” The main reason is most likely due to the fact that Thompson has been dealing with back problems since the beginning of the season. Thompson now admits that he probably shouldn’t have played in a few games, due to the amount of discomfort that he felt in his back, but he played through it.
A week ago, Thompson spoke with Monte Poole of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area about how he was starting to feel much better.
“These last two or three days are the best I’ve felt physically all season,” Thompson said.
“I’ve been dealing with the back stuff, so it was about getting the right kind of work in and now I feel almost 100 percent healthy again. That’s the biggest difference. I’m getting my legs back into my shots.”
He clearly felt better then, since after this interview, he shot 10-of-17 overall and 4-of-7 from three-point range against the Detroit Pistons. However, Thompson did miss Saturday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets due to back spasms. He did take part in Monday’s practice and is listed as probable for the Warriors’ game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.
Thompson is right that the discomfort in his back clearly affected his ability to use the strength in his legs while shooting. That could definitely explain the lower shooting percentage. However, taking a closer look at Thompson’s stats this year sheds some light on another reason why Thompson’s stats aren’t quite as strong as last year.
Last season, he averaged 16.9 field goal attempts per game. 7.1 of those 16.9 attempts per game were threes, which means that about 42 percent of the shots he took were threes. In addition, he averaged 3.3 free throw attempts per game, as he clearly made a point all last season to drive to the basket more in an attempt to get more trips to the free throw line. This was a significant step in elevating his game, which ultimately led to him being named an All-Star for the first time.
This season though, Thompson is averaging just 13.3 shot attempts per game, and 5.7 of those attempts are on threes, which means that about 43 percent of his shots are threes. Although the percentage of his shots that are threes is basically the same as last season, he is attempting less field goals, in general, than last season.
This can be partially attributed to the fact that Curry, since he has been near superhuman and unstoppable so far, is averaging more field goal attempts this season (21.5) than last season (16.8). Since Curry has been on fire basically all season and has, therefore, been attempting more shots, this leaves less shot opportunities for Thompson.
However, Thompson could also be shooting less because of his back discomfort. His lower field goal attempts and shooting percentage could potentially be linked to either or both of these theories, but here’s another intriguing discovery.
In addition to attempting less shots, Thompson has also been driving to the basket less this season. As mentioned earlier, he averaged 3.3 free throw attempts last season, and this season, he’s averaging just 1.2 attempts in a similar amount of minutes (30.7 minutes per game this season, compared to 31.9 minutes per game last season).
Last season, Thompson attempted 1,299 field goals. Out of those, 274 attempts were at the rim, so roughly 21.1 percent of his shots last season were at the rim. 177 of those attempts were between three and 10 feet, which means 13.6 percent of his shots last season were from close range.November 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) celebrates during the first quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Grizzlies 119-69. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Compared to this season, the evidence, once again, shows that Thompson has been less aggressive and hasn’t driven to the basket as much. This is obviously a small sample size, but this season, Thompson has attempted 133 field goals. 15 of those attempts were at the rim, which means he’s only taking 11.3 percent of his shots at the rim. 12 of those total attempts were between three and 10 feet, which means only about nine percent of his shots were from close range.
This is clearly a part of Thompson’s game that isn’t as frequently used this season as it was last season. Driving to the basket is so important for the development of his game, since it makes him less predictable for defenders. Since he is such a lethal three-point shooter, a defender will have a much harder time guarding him if he also can use his quick feet to drive past them towards the basket. Thompson becomes an elite shooting guard when he adds in that element to his game.
Perhaps he is driving to the basket and getting fouled less because of his back pain. Perhaps he is generally attempting fewer shots because of his back pain. This is all speculative and can become kind of a chicken and the egg type of discussion, since it’s not clear what issue is causing what other issue.
What is clear though is that the most important factor for the Warriors to repeat as champions this season is the team’s overall health. Curry’s health is, by far, the most imperative, but Thompson’s health is certainly important as well for various reasons, which Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN greatly pointed out too.
Luckily for the Warriors though, Thompson’s struggles haven’t prevented them from winning. This season, the Warriors are even better than last season. They’ve gotten off to a historic start to the season, as they became only the 11th team in NBA history to start off the season 11-0. Not only are the Warriors undefeated, but they have won pretty convincingly in all but two of their games so far. Life is good in Dub Nation right now, even with Thompson still finding his way a little bit.
As Strauss mentioned though, Thompson will need to get healthy and bounce back from this slow start, in order for the Warriors to continue their success but also perhaps to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the season.