Has Klay Thompson Been Any Good For The Warriors Since Returning?

It is a well-known storyline of the season. After two and a half years and 177 games out of action since tearing a knee ligament in an NBA Finals game, then tearing an Achilles tendon while rehabbing the first injury, Golden State Warriors All-Star swingman Klay Thompson is, mercifully, finally back in action.

To date, Thompson has played in eight games in the 2021/22 season, starting every one of them. On a minutes restriction, he has played between 19:37 and 26:59 in each one, a highly regimented amount designed to ease him into full game shape after so long out.

Clearly, then, there is still a way to go before we can say that the Klay Thompson we used to know is back, in terms of workload if nothing else. But in the half-games that he is playing, what kind of impact is he making?

Offensive End Seems Fine So Far

In his eight games thus far, Thompson has averaged 15.8 points on 41.2% shooting, including 36.8% from three-point range.

Both of these efficiency numbers were far more flattering before his sixth game, a 6-17 shooting performance including 0-7 from three-point range, and for whatever reason, the shooting plummets to 34.2% on the road. However, the shooting should not be in question. Thompson is one of the best jump shooters that the sport has ever produced in its history. If his shot has any trace amount of rust on it, it will soon burn off.

More important, and less clearly determined, is whether Thompson would be able to get back the mobility that made his game so effective with such little dribbling. Thompson never had the greatest straight-line speed or leap; his effectiveness on both ends of the court came from footwork, anticipation, some dexterity, and both an intelligence and abundance of movement.

The small split-second decisions players are constantly making to create the small extra slithers of space that make good shooters into great ones – and that accordingly deny such space going the other way – come from the dual abilities not just to recognise where to be, but to get there first. If the Warriors are to get that to that effortlessly potent Splash Brothers-driven offense of their heyday, Thompson needs not only to hit the shots that MVP third-favourite Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green create for him – he needs to find them in the flow like he once did, too.

Happily, though, it seems as though he can. While Thompson did miss one extra game than scheduled due to soreness in his reconstructed knee – one which the Warriors insist was purely precautionary, something backed up by Klay’s immediate return to two excellent performances – it seems as though his mobility, and the frequency of it, is on par with where it was. While he lacks some explosion at the rim to finish, Thompson is working off the ball and in dribble hand-offs, taking seemingly very little time to get back to his preferred shot profile. Offensively, the occasional cold shooting spell notwithstanding, it is like he has never been away,

The Defense Is Not Far Behind

Thompson’s injuries, and the Achilles tear especially, figured to be more of a hindrance on the defensive end, with regards to the likely inhibition it would put on his lateral movement. But there, too, the early returns are promising.

When matched up against big wings such as himself, Klay seems to have enough of his previous foot speed to stay in front and shoot the gaps, disrupting and deflecting as he once did. This was evident in the Warriors’ recent hefty 38-point win against the Dallas Mavericks, where Luka Doncic, skilled though he is, struggled to get to his spot against a wily and sufficiently-mobile Thompson.

When matched up against true speedsters, Klay struggles, and when off the ball, he is getting caught. But then, he always did. The question was never whether Klay would come back better, but whether he would be able to just come back. And the answer already appears to be, he can.

Aesthetically, one would be hard-pushed to notice much of a different between the Klay of today and the Klay of his heyday. In terms of the measurable results, too, he is reasonably on a par with his best, an especially reassuring return given the absence of Draymond Green, whose presence will only help.

The final question, then, will be how he holds up from here. On that front, only time will tell.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/markdeeks/2022/01/28/has-klay-thompson-been-any-good-for-the-warriors-since-returning/