Golden State Warriors guard Klay hompson was one of the NBA’s most durable players. After fighting through injuries and posting gaudy states nearly every night, Thompson’s durability finally came to a head in the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
The big picture: As Klay Thompson prepares for his NBA return after missing a year with a torn ACL, here is a five-year stats projection with the Warriors.
Klay Thompson’s stats prove he is a Warrior in more ways than one
Since being drafted 11th by the Warriors in 2011, Thompson has always been a sharpshooter. While he isn’t a facilitator and is average on the glass, Thompson made his name as one of the premier “3-and-D” players in the NBA.
His ability to properly position himself on defense is key for the Warriors. He uses his size and length to obscure opposing guards’ vision and he’s agile enough to stay in front of shiftier players. Taking offense and defense into account, Thompson:
- Across eight seasons, Thompson is averaging 19.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 33 minutes a game.
- Shot 45%/42%/84.8% from the field, 3-point land and from the free-throw line, respectively, for his career.
- Thompson is a five-time All-Star, three-time NBA champion, two-time All-NBA selection and an All-Defensive 2nd Team selection in 2019.
Thompson knows and accepts his role in Steve Kerr’s system. He’s a more-grounded shooter that uses his frame to disrupt shooters. That’s why he might have an easier time getting back to game rhythm – be it off the bench or as a starter.
NBA players who tore their ACLs
There have been a total of 99 players that have torn their ACL. Among that group, 17 were around 29-30 years old at the time of their injury. Out of that sample, eight were either a shooting guard or small forward – positions that Thompson has played or can potentially play.
- Bernard King – 28 (missed his age-29 season, returned at 30)
- Doug Collins – 29
- Sarunas Marciulionis – 29
- Michael Redd – 29 and 30
- Leandro Barbosa -30
- Walter Davis – 30
- Jamaal Wilkes – 31
- Josh Howard – 32
Only two players were able to make a return and post solid numbers:
- King played six more seasons, averaging 20.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
- Davis played seven more seasons after tearing his ACL. He averaged 17.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
That said, there are more players who retire after such a devastating injury.
- At 29, the oft-injured Collins never played again following his devastating injury.
- Marciulionis wasn’t the same player after tearing his ACL. He went from averaging 14.7 points pre-injury to 9.6 after the surgery, later retiring.
- A prolific scorer, Redd tore his ACL twice. He played parts of two seasons, before retiring at 32 after averaging 7.6 points in 14.8 minutes.
- Barbosa played for three teams in five years, winning a championship with the Warriors in 2015. After the injury, he averaged less than seven points per night in 15 minutes.
- Wilkes, a Hall of Famer, played one more season after tearing his ACL in the 80s. He averaged 5.8 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 15 minutes.
- Howard played 11 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves before tearing his ACL. He retired soon after.
How Thompson will play for the Warriors
In a sense, Thompson is an amalgamation of the aforementioned players’ styles and builds. That’s why in the next five years, Thompson:
- He should average around 17 points, two rebounds and an assist a game in about 26-30 minutes per game.
- Can shoot around 43-45%/38-40%/85% from the field, 3-point land and free throw line, respectively.
- Will play at least 70 games, going off his history as a durable player.
As Thompson gets older, the best comparison would be Ray Allen. While Allen was an athletic guard early in his career, he focused on his 3-point shooting and accepted coming off the bench, allowing him to age gracefully. Because Thompson is a phenomenal shooter, his transition to the bench should be smooth when his time comes.
The bottom line: Thompson will be effective for the Warriors until he retires
Regardless of what happens with Thompson, one thing is for certain: he will remain a threat on the court. Like Stephen Curry, his incredible shooting will make it difficult for defenders to sag off, no matter how old he is.
Because of his more down-to-Earth approach, he can continue to be an effective player on both sides of the ball. Thompson doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands to be a problem for whoever is guarding him. Add his silky-smooth jumper and ability to move off the ball and Thompson can potentially go off for 40 or 50 on any given night.
Defensively, Thompson can continue to use his size to his advantage. So long as he retains his lateral mobility, he shouldn’t have a hard time guarding opposing guards and small forwards. In the end, Thompson will be a weapon the Warriors can deploy until he retires.