Tbird 2011 NBA draft analysis #2: Klay Thompson
Written by thunderbird1245
Back again today with my second draft analysis thread of 2011, this time of shooting guard Klay Thompson of Washington State. You can read my first thread of this season about Colorado wingman Alec Burks elsewhere on this site, as well as my player analysis threads from previous NBA drafts.
Thompson is the son of former NBA big Mychal Thompson, who certainly provided many hoops highlights in his career for those of you old enough to remember him. His son Klay will likely get his chance to follow his Dad’s footsteps into the NBA, as he is projected currently as a mid first round selection. Unlike his father, Klay is only 6’7, 206 lbs, and has a thin wispy build reminiscent of several thin shooting guards who have graced NBA floors in the past. With a highly thought of game and an NBA pedigree, I was anxious to get a look at Thompson, and that is why I finished my analysis of him rather early in this process.
Thompson was the only real major weapon for Washington State, and their staff used him appropriately considering his skill set. Almost totally a catch and shoot type of wing guy, Thompson is a really good mover without the basketball, reading screens at a very high level, and using different speeds to set up his man for the various cuts needed to come off screens.
Thompson has really good footwork, a sign of someone who has been very well coached throughout his life….which is what you would expect from a son of an NBA player. He is efficient in his steps regardless of the type of cut he makes, rarely wasting a step, and is able to get angles on his defenders quite often despite lacking in sheer quickness or athleticism. He is able to catch and square his shoulders as the ball is in flight to him, rather than waiting until he catches the pass to get ready to shoot…..that enables him to get his jump shot off even when closely guarded. He was a nearly 40% 3 point shooter in college despite being very closely guarded as their only real threat, and despite really lacking the ability to blow by people with the dribble.
Thompson uses an array of shot fakes and jab steps to create space for himself….like Coach Knight I am a big fan of the perimeter shot fake, and therefore I liked watching Thompson throw defenders off balance by using them so frequently. He has a high smooth release* on his jumper, and with his size I don’t think he will have any major trouble getting his shot off once he gets open at the NBA level. For the most part he takes good shots, and unlike Alec Burks he does very well at normally getting himself squared up to shoot, again I give credit for that to his footwork and cutting ability as the ball is in flight to him.
However, very good coaching and technique aside does not hide the fact that Thompson is a below average NBA athlete for his position. In fact, one of the reasons they had to screen for him so much at Washington State is that he struggled to get open on his own, lacking the explosive kinds of v-cuts and speed to be able to even get an entry pass without a screen. At the NBA level, if you are a wing player who has to get a screen to get open consistently, you had better be a dominant, deadeye, unbelievable shooter…….time will tell if Thompson can be that at the next level.
As a ballhandler, Thompson is a one or 2 dribble guy it appears. He is not creative with the basketball either for himself or for others. He is not someone you can run isolations for, nor is he someone you can have as a ballhandler in a screen/roll situation I don’t believe. He has no positional versatility, he is strictly a wing. He plays below the rim on his drives, and though he is a very good foul shooter he likely will rarely actually get to the line.
Basically, he is what he is offensively. A wing who can shoot the ball well, and who cuts efficiently to get open but needs help to make that happen. He isn’t a driver nor a player who can get his own shot, nor can he create shots for others.* He is a guy you can run plays for, or who you can use to space the floor for others. While he isn’t a great passer, he has some promise as a player who you could use to take the ball out of bounds in some situations, and he is a guy you’d play at the end of the game if you could offensively as he will be a steady hand at the foul line for you.
We all have our own biases when we evaluate players. Some value shooting more than other do, others value size more than most, it just depends on our own point of view. Those who know me know I don’t like super small wings (wings in point guard bodies) usually, and I don’t like perimeter players who can’t guard. Unfortunately, Thompson falls into that latter category as a poor defending 2 man even at the college level.
There is no question in my mind that Thompson will be a man you will have to try and hide defensively at the NBA level, and that teams will target to attack whenever possible. Against the dribble, Thompson stands up out of his stance when attacked, and is slow laterally anyway. As a coach, if you wanted to play Thompson bad enough you could scheme around him some by having him always play “half a man” on the perimeter (totally forcing him one direction into pre planned help) but he isn’t going to be good enough to just play heads up on someone decent and be able to stop him off the bounce.
Thompson is too slow and weak fighting thru screens, as he lacks the defensive awareness and athleticism necessary to avoid being screened in the first place….he runs into alot of screens I think, which I think happens because he stays so close to his man away from the ball (knowing he lacks the recovery speed to play a step or 2 off)…..Thompson is easy to screen.
And if he is ever posted up, he is too weak at this point to not give ground inside, and he lacks the quickness and lightness of foot to get off the ground and contest someone’s post move.
So basically what I am saying is that I think he will be below average defensively against the dribble, against cutters, and against post ups…..basically he will be a gaping hole in your team defense that in order to play him, you will either have to be able to live with somehow or be able to cover up. To me, this means he will never be good enough to be an NBA starter unless surrounded by 4 top defenders at every other position….which rarely if ever happens.
You’d think with his offensive ability that he’d be a good fit for a real up temp team, but I totally disagree with that. He needs to be able to find his niche with a halfcourt team that runs alot of set plays and that can hide him to a degree defensively.
To me Thompson projects at best to be a 10-15 minute back up wing, maybe your 4th wing in a 4 wing rotation. His defensive limitations are severe enough to me that his offensive strengths don’t make up for them. Now, if he becomes better than I think he will be offensively and turns into Reggie Miller, or Rip Hamilton, or Ray Allen, then* he will be a net positive for you…..but I don’t see him being that level of good offensively either.
Now, there are teams he could help as a designated shooter in spots. He’d be a nice fit I think for the Celtics at #25, possibly Oklahoma City at #24, or Miami maybe at the top of the second round at pick #31, all teams that his strengths could be hidden while his shooting ability could be used to relieve pressure off others. All those teams have high level defenders around him and have shot creators who could draw defenders to them and then dish to him spotting up.
It is a testimony I think to the relative weakness of the wing group in this class that Thompson is unlikely to make it to the teams I just described above. Instead, I am 99% sure he will go in the top half of round one, perhaps even higher than that.* Even though I don’t see him as anywhere near good enough to be a top 10 pick, I can see the Milwaukee Bucks at pick #10 being a very good fit for him, and in fact that is where I think he is the most likely to end up.
How would he fit for Indiana, and should we take him at #15 if he is there?
In my view we need a ballhandler, and a man who can get his own shot to fit best as a 3rd wing, replacing in effect Mike Dunleavy with a younger, more athletic and dynamic player. At least, if we pick a wing that is what we need….and I simply don’t see Thompson as a particularly good fit with the skill sets of Paul George and/or Danny Granger.
While I am sure many of you would like his professional stoic demeanor, the way he can shoot the rock coming off screens, and his high revving motor moving without the ball, to me his defensive shortcomings are too much to overcome for me to be in favor of his selection by Indiana at #15. I would pass and not give it a second thought, though I am sure many smart people can disagree.
However even though I’d pass personally, I do think he will be under some consideration for Larry Bird if he is there, due to his ability to shoot, and his solid background as the son of an NBA champion player (albeit a Laker). Research tells me that he has one marijuana arrest in college, but I don’t necessarily think that is much of a red flag at this point. Still, I suspect the Pacers front office will in the end go in a different direction on draft night. We will see.
As always, the above is just my opinion.