Klay Thompson's Slump Could Jeopardize All-Star Streak, Contract Money

OAKLAND – Argue about his value on defense. Debate the consistency of his focus. Question his judgment about dribbling in traffic. Ponder the source of his supreme mellowness. There is much to contemplate about Klay Thompson's game.

The one element that has defied dispute was his jump shot. It's the prettiest in the land and the closest thing to Rolex reliability in the NBA.

It might occasionally stray, but Thompson's picture-perfect form always has come back to faithfully serve its master.

That is, until this season. Three months since the Warriors opened training camp and 35 games into their regular season, Thompson's jump shot is as erratic as a flag in a tornado. It's off to the left, off to the right, too short, too long and then so errant all it hits is backboard.

After four consecutive seasons of being there for the Warriors, essential to their annual trips to the NBA Finals, Thompson's missing jumper is hurting the team and jeopardizing his bargaining power.

After four consecutive seasons as an NBA All-Star, he is in peril of shooting his way to a February vacation.

"You just trust that Klay is going to come around," Kevin Durant said. "He's had spurts where he hasn't shot the ball well, but he's played great defense, he's rebounded, he's made plays for others. That stuff leads to coming back around with your shot.

"We trust in Klay. We believe in him. We're going to keep instilling confidence every time down."

With the exception of one extraordinary game, on Oct. 29 in Chicago, where he set an NBA record by pouring in 14 3-pointers, Thompson has been among the least efficient long-range shooters in the league. He's shooting 33.7 percent from deep, three percentage points behind Utah's Ricky Rubio and three ahead of Boston's Marcus Smart, neither of whom could have imagined shooting the 3-ball at a level similar to Thompson.

Through seven seasons, Thompson shot 42.2 percent from deep. He is coming off his most efficient shooting season of his career, 48.8 percent overall, 44 percent from deep. He's the only player in NBA history not named Stephen Curry to make at least 200 triples in six different seasons.

Thompson consistently says he expects his shot to come back because it always has. His father, former NBA player Mychal Thompson, expects the same and insists that his son is not distracted by the fact that he will be a free agent in July.

"He's not thinking about that at all," the elder Thompson said Wednesday, in an interview with 95.7 The Game. "We never talk about that. He never brings it up. He just wants to help this team win and do his part consistently.

"He's not even thinking about a contract year."

[RELATED: Why it's not too soon to worry about the Warriors]

Klay Thompson surely realizes what it would take for him to become eligible for a supermax contract. He must be named All-NBA or Defensive Player of the Year this season. Even if he's willing to sign for less than the supermax – which would allow him to earn more than 30 percent of the cap – eligibility inflates his leverage.

Failing to make All-NBA or DPOY – Thompson's defense has been good, sometimes superb – automatically lowers his demand. He's not close to either honor.

The Warriors continue to preach patience, and rightly so. Curry says his teammates will "stay in his ear," reminding Thompson that they believe in him and to keep trusting himself.

Nothing indicates Thompson has lost confidence; he's averaging 18.7 shots per game, a career-high. He's leaning particularly hard on the worst shot in the game, the contested midrange jumper. He leads the NBA in midrange shots despite accuracy below 50 percent.

The coaches have addressed shot selection with the entire team because, well, there was a need to discuss it. They have faith that Thompson's work ethic will pay off.

"One thing you know with Klay is he's going to get his work in," coach Steve Kerr said. "We can help him out as coaches. His teammates can help him out. And he can help himself out. It's always a combination, and all of that has to happen."

Thompson's shot will come back. His form demands it. It had better hurry, though, or it will be too late to save his All-Star Game streak, much less any chance of supermax eligibility.

Copyright CSNBY - CSN BAY
Contact Us