Should Warriors be concerned about Klay Thompson? Debating Golden State star's slow start vs. Celtics in NBA Finals

Should Warriors be concerned about Klay Thompson? Debating Golden State star's slow start vs. Celtics in NBA Finals

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): It’s been a tough NBA Finals for Klay Thompson so far.

In Golden State’s Game 1 loss, Thompson finished with 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting from the field. Game 2 was much more of a struggle for him, as he finished with 11 points on 4-for-19 shooting from the field and 1-for-8 from 3-point range.

The Warriors blew the Celtics out in Game 2, but Golden State is going to need more from the five-time All-Star the rest of the way to defeat Boston.

With that in mind, Carlan, are you concerned with how Thompson has looked through two games?

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Honestly, I’m not concerned yet.

I think we can agree that if the Warriors keep getting this version of Klay Thompson, one that has had little to no impact in both games, then they probably won’t win the title. But it’s a long series — or at least I expect it to be. If he’s able to get out of his shooting slump, provide some secondary scoring and put the Warriors in a position to win, we’ll look at these first two games differently in the grand scheme.

Rafferty: It’s encouraging that the Warriors are 1-1 despite Thompson not playing particularly well. He’s also been pretty up and down in the postseason — not a huge surprise considering the injuries he’s coming back from — so it’s not like this slump came out of nowhere. The key is that he’s had some big performances in important moments, like going off for 30 points to close out the Grizzlies in the second round. It feels like they can always count on Klay when they need him the most.

In saying that, I did think Thompson forced the issue a little in Game 2.

Gay: He did, but I actually think that’s a good thing for the Warriors.

Look, part of what makes Klay Thompson special is that he is one of the greatest shooters the game has ever seen, and to be a great shooter in the NBA, you have to have confidence. Sometimes that means accepting a bad shot or two, but I’d much rather Klay take a bad shot than no shot at all.

Klay isn’t going to get back to being the Klay he was prior to the injuries he’s suffered. We can all collectively stop waiting on that Klay to return. But just because he’s not what he once was all the time doesn’t mean he can’t be highly impactful some of the time.

For the rest of Klay’s career, he’s going to be judged on his shot-making ability. He wasn’t much of a playmaker before, and he’s not the trusted lockdown defender the Warriors can rely on in big spots.

So, if shots fall, Klay had a great game. If they don’t, we think he’s a shell of his former self.

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Rafferty: I mean, a shell of his former self is still a damn good player. Sure, he might not be a perennial All-Star and All-Defensive candidate moving forward, but, I mean, he still knocked down 3.6 3-pointers per game at a 38.5 percent clip this season.

Want to guess how many players in NBA history can match those numbers?

Eight, and one of them is Stephen Curry, who has done it eight times. (Nobody else has done it more than twice. Yeah… Steph is from another planet.)

The 3-pointers Thompson attempted in Game 2 weren’t the problem to me. Most of them were rhythm shots that he’s going to make more often than not. It’s some of the 2-pointers he settled for that stood out.

Like, this isn’t a good shot … right?

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Gay: Actually, I’m not mad at that look.

Rafferty: In what world is Klay taking a left-handed hook shot with two defenders on him a good shot?

Gay: The two defender thing… I’m not with that. My only problem with the shot is that he didn’t recognize the double.

But that aside, Klay is looking to find a rhythm, getting a mismatch with the smaller Payton Prichard, being confident and trying to get an easy look over a smaller player. I’m not mad at that shot.

It becomes a bigger problem if Klay passes up opportunities to be aggressive and doesn’t look to attack the smaller player on the block.

Rafferty: OK… what about this one?

Gay: Is it a great shot? No, but in the context of the game, I’m not going to crush him for that look. It’s less than a minute into the second half. He’s trying to get a look off against a Celtics defense that isn’t set. That look in the grand scheme of things was a blip on the radar. Had he taken that shot in the last two minutes of a two-point game, that’s an awful look.

Now, could he have made a better move? Maybe pump fake, attack Al Horford off the dribble and get to the goal there? I think so. If we’re looking for a black and white answer here, it’s a bad look, but I’ll repeat what I said before. I’d rather Klay take those looks than pass them up because Klay Thompson before the injury would take that look. While he isn’t that Klay anymore, I still want him playing with that confidence.

A bad shot for Klay isn’t the same as a bad shot for anyone else on the team not named Stephen Curry.

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Rafferty: While those are all very fair points, I just don’t know if him taking a heavily contested 2-pointer seconds into the shot clock of a close game is what the Warriors are looking for, especially when he was struggling as much as he was to that point of the game.

Gay: It was less than a minute into the half. It wasn’t a two-point game with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Context is king there.

Rafferty: All right, last one — good shot or not?

Gay: I don’t have much of an issue with it. The problem for me with this play was Nemanja Bjelica. What the heck was he doing? Look, Jordan Poole is trying to get Klay to come off the Bjelica screen to put him in a position to make a play. Bjelica ends up screening his own man!

Aside from Bjelica, the shot is tough. But again, for a guy trying to find his rhythm, I’m not mad at it. This shot went up in the second period of the game with a Curry-less lineup.

Is it a great shot? No, but if the Warriors are going to win this series, they need a confident Klay Thompson. He has to start making shots, or they won’t win the title.

This is part of the process to get him there. He’s going to be taking tough shots that we’ve seen him make routinely in the past — and at some point, he’s going to start making them.

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Rafferty: This is the only one of the three I don’t really have a problem with. Sure, it’s still a tough shot, but it’s within the flow of the offense — and it’s one Klay is capable of making. Klay connected on 45.0 percent of his 2-point pull-ups during the regular season. He’s actually been better in the NBA Playoffs, making 47.7 percent (!) of those opportunities.

Not that he’s ever been someone who lives in the paint, but Klay is (unsurprisingly) getting to the rim at the lowest rate of his career since returning from his injuries. The midrange is pretty important for him.

Gay: So is the post play! But you had a problem with that one!

Rafferty: You’re right. Klay jacking up a left-handed hook shot with Horford breathing down his neck is the same as him taking a midrange pull-up. What are we doing here?

Gay: He’s shooting 46.7 percent on fadeaway jump shots (NBA tracking data placed it in that category) in the postseason. In his last three active seasons in the league prior to the two years he missed, he shot 54.3 percent (2019), 50.0 percent (2018) and 56.3 percent (2017) on fadeaways. I think he’s earned the right to take a tough shot or two in the post.

But like I said, he should’ve seen Al coming…

Rafferty: So it wasn’t a good shot!

If you really want to do this, go check out Klay’s post-up numbers this season. Spoiler alert: They’re not great.

Whatever, we could argue about this all day. I think we’re on the same page that we’re not overly concerned with Klay’s start to the Finals yet. We just disagree on some of the shots he took in Game 2.

Gay: When his shots start falling, let’s have this conversation again. Then, you can try to tell me if the looks are good or bad.

Rafferty: Deal.