Is Golden State’s Klay Thompson better than one of those?
He thinks so and said as much speaking to Shams Charania of The Athletic in a recent interview (hat tip Chinmay Vaidya at Watch Stadium).
“The past few years, there’s been some guys where I’m like, ‘Man, I know I’m a better defender than him.’ I really want to make one of those teams. I think I put the work in on both ends to get that recognition.”
Thompson came in a distant sixth in guard voting (Chris Paul was fifth). That’s not far off, but the West is stacked with talent and it can be hard to get noticed.
Much like his offensive game, Thompson’s defense is impressive but can get lost amongst a team with a former Defensive Player of the Year (Draymond Green) and other guys who can crank it up on the defensive end when they want to (Kevin Durant, for example). Last season, pick-and-roll ball handlers scored 0.85 points per possession when guarded by Thompson (about the league average) and he struggled some when he had to go over picks (tracking stats via Synergy Sports). Also, the advanced stats don’t always love Thompson — his defensive real plus/minus was 26th among shooting guards, and the Warriors were good but not dynamic 1.4 points per 100 possessions better defensively when he was on the court. That doesn’t help his case.
Part of that is Thompson always gets the toughest perimeter defensive assignments, a lot is asked of him on both ends and Thompson steps up. He’s got three rings the last four years on what has been an elite defensive team to show it.
Thompson is starting his campaign to make the team early this season — before it even tips off. That said, his play has deserved serious consideration for years and eventually he is going to make the team. He’s that good defensively.