Over the past two weeks, we’ve examined the likelihood and deservingness of the Warriors top candidates to participate in the 2013 NBA All-Star game. First came the case for reigning Western Conference Player of the Week David Lee. Then we followed that up with the case for point guard Stephen Curry. It’s still unknown if either campaign will be successful, but Warriors fans can do their part by making sure they #DubTheVote daily.
In the meantime, we now present the third and final installment of this series, the case for Klay Thompson:
Prior to the Warriors stunning last second victory over the Heat last week, Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra claimed the Warriors had the best shooting backcourt in the league...and he wasn’t just talking about All-Star hopeful Stephen Curry. After less than a year and a half in the league, Klay Thompson has already garnered widespread attention and respect for his offensive potential, and rightfully so. Since the beginning of last season, only four other NBA players (Ryan Anderson, Steve Novak, Randy Foye, and Jason Terry) have made more 3-pointers than Thompson’s 178. This season, he ranks fourth in 3-pointers made with 67 (Stephen Curry ranks second with 72), and second in 3-pointers attempted with 182, sandwiched between Anderson’s 206 and Curry’s 168.
While it’s unlikely he’ll be selected to this year’s Western Conference All-Star team due to the surplus of deserving candidates for the guard spots, Thompson (and Warriors fans) shouldn’t be discouraged. It has become a sort of league-wide trend for young players to make a name for themselves a year or two prior to finally earning that selection, and Klay is well on his way down that path. You can go all the way back to the beginning of the summer to find instances of Thompson’s ascendance to NBA relevancy, as he was selected to be a member of the USA Select Team to practice with and help prepare the National team headed to the London Olympics. Frequently, members of the Select Team find themselves headed to the Olympics the next time around, but nonetheless, only the most skilled young players are invited to participate. During his time practicing with the gold medal-winning National team, numerous NBA superstars commented on Thompson’s growth and promising future. Needless to say, if he’s garnering the attention of the best players and coaches in the world, then he’s certainly in their minds regarding the annual NBA All-Star showcase. Then, just before the start of the season, NBA general managers participated in a league-wide survey to get their input and prognostications for the season ahead. When asked which player was most likely to have a breakout season in 2012-13, the GMs – you know, the guys whose job it is to identify and aggregate talent – selected none other than Thompson. For comparisons sake, James Harden was selected in the same category the prior year. So while it would be premature to say that Thompson is a better player than Harden today, it just goes to show the heights NBA talent evaluators believe Thompson can reach down the line.
Even if Klay isn’t selected to the All-Star game, it would be a shame not to include him in the festivities altogether. Aside from the annual Rising Stars Challenge, which pits the top first- and second-year NBA players against one another in an exhibition game, there is one event in particular that Thompson should be an absolute lock for: the 3-point Shootout. His shockingly consistent stroke and impressively quick release are ideally suited for the competition. He has the numbers and statistics to back up his selection. Oh, and in case you hadn’t noticed, he’s been training for it all mid-night long.
Ideally the top-six shooters in the league would be selected for the Shootout each year, but that’s not always the case. In recent years, some deserving Warriors players have been passed over for reasons that remain unknown. While one can argue that the numbers of past Warriors teams were inflated due to the ultra-fast pace tempo of those teams, that debate no longer applies. The Warriors aren’t running and gunning. They’re not the seven-seconds-or-less Suns of yore. While they do try to capitalize on the fast break when it presents itself, much more frequently than in years past the Warriors are operating out of a half-court set…and Thompson is still putting up those numbers.
More importantly, which six other NBA players are more deserving of a selection than Thompson? In response, some critics might argue that he’s not even the best shooter on his own team. Well, while it’s possible that’s true, that doesn’t make him any less deserving, and isn’t the Shootout the best way to find out? In the words of Rasheed Wallace, the “Ball don’t lie.” Both Thompson and Curry deserve to be there, and the competition would be better off having included these two dynamic sharp-shooters. Besides, what greater scenario for Warriors fans than the two Splash Brothers facing off in the finals to solidify their reputation as not only the best shooting backcourt in the league today, but also perhaps one of the best of all-time?
If the goal of the NBA All-Star Weekend is to showcase the league’s best and brightest, Thompson might as well book his plane ticket to Houston now. While he still has plenty of room left to grow, in less than two seasons, he’s quickly established himself as one of the premier shooters and most promising young players in the entire NBA. He’s already proven that to Team USA, NBA GMs, and most of all, to Warriors fans. Here’s hoping he gets a chance to prove it to everyone else at NBA All-Star Weekend.