Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Saturday at 4 p.m. PT streaming live on the MyTeams app.
It's been a strange season for four-time All-Star, Klay Thompson.
Last year, Klay shot a career-high 44 percent from 3-point range on 7.1 attempts per game. In his first seven seasons, he never shot below 40.1 percent from deep, but this year he's at a career-low 34.4 percent from beyond the arc on 7.6 attempts. That isn't a small sample size that can be shrugged off.
Last night in Utah, Klay went 0-for-4 from distance, which included two airballs:
Klay's 3rd shot of the game came with 21 seconds left in the half. Mitchell did a great job of chasing and Klay rushes the right-wing 3-pointer = airball (and a frustrated pause) pic.twitter.com/eNj2W4WFED— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 20, 2018
After the loss, Steve Kerr said he's not surprised that Klay is struggling with his 3-point accuracy because the Warriors are not moving the ball as well as they did in prior seasons and only getting "decent shots." While there may be some truth to that (especially when Steph Curry and Draymond Green missed double-digit games), the advanced metrics for Klay tell a different story.
According to NBA.com, Klay on "wide open" 3-pointers:
-This season = 29.2 percent on 2.0 attempts per game
-Last season = 50.5 percent on 2.5 attempts per game
That is a truly staggering dropoff.
How about "open" 3-pointers?
-This season = 38.3 percent on 3.6 attempts per game
-Last season = 43.1 percent on 2.9 attempts per game
Klay on "tight" 3-pointers:
-This season = 31.1 percent on 1.9 attempts per game
-Last season = 34 percent on 1.4 attempts per game
So, yes, while he's taking less "wide open" triples and more "tight" triples, he's getting more "open" 3-pointers and just not making them consistently:
Klay's defender falls down but he misses the open wing 3. Jim Barnett: "He needs this... that's what he needs to see go through - those perimeter shots from 3-point range." pic.twitter.com/4QgWhobpTL— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 20, 2018
Another layer to all of this is the big spike in midrange jumpers from Klay -- many of which are contested well by the defense. The two-time All-NBA selection is taking 2.6 shots per game from 10-14 feet, up from 1.7 last year. The crazy thing is he's making over 51 percent of them!
The bigger issue is that he's averaging 4.4 attempts from 15-19 feet (second most in the league to DeMar DeRozan) and is 46.8 percent on those. Last year, he only attempted 3.2 per game from this range and made them at a 50 percent clip.
In a time when the league is shooting more 3-pointers than ever before, Klay is averaging 2.7 more 2-pointers per game than he did last season. Why? It is probably a combination of team strategy (influence from the coaching staff), his slump from distance to start the season and his desire to add another dimension to his game. Klay doesn't want to be known as simply a 3-point shooter and that's understandable.
But that doesn't mean he should just jack up inefficient shots to prove he can make them. For example, look at his first shot of the game last night vs the Jazz:
This was Klay Thompson's first shot last night - a forced one-legged fadeaway with 17 on the shot clock from practically behind the basket... (Curry and Durant never even emerge on the screen) pic.twitter.com/lrLYRVwtkh— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 20, 2018
Kerr clearly tried to get Klay going immediately out of the halftime locker room. It didn't work:
The good thing is that Klay isn't letting his shooting impact his defense. He is averaging career highs in steals (1.2) and blocks (0.7) and played a big part in Donovan Mitchell's dreadful 5-for-26 from the field on Wednesday:
Is Klay's pending unrestricted free agency impacting him? Is the uncertainty surrounding the Warriors' future in general weighing on him? It's hard to know one way or another, but we all know that Klay is as care-free as they come and Kerr has repeatedly said he is "zero maintenance."
The good news for Warriors fans is that Klay's track record shows he should regress to the mean at some point. And an extended hot streak from distance seems inevitable.
But until then, something just isn't quite right...
Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller