As a prelude to the start of the 2017-2018 NBA season on October 17th, Fast Break will be running a series of posts surveying the various aspects of the Golden State Warriors and the competitive landscape surrounding them. This penultimate post looks at two multipurpose pillars of the Warriors’ franchise.
Is everyone ready for basketball or what? With just under a week to go until the NBA regular season begins again in earnest, we’re winding down our season preview with the two less heralded of the four players yet to be covered.
Last season: 22.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 0.8 steals per game on 46.8% shooting from the field and 41.4% from behind the arc. Basketball Reference attributes 7.1 win shares to him last year.
What he brings: Klay Thompson went to China after the Warriors brought home the Larry O’Brien trophy, if you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, and he had a rollicking good time there (see Twitter if you don’t believe me). The guy who Joe Lacob prostrated himself before for bailing out the Warriors (and balling out in general) in a dire Game 6 in Oklahoma two seasons ago has continued his rise into the elite upper echelons of the NBA. Now a three-time All-Star and two-time champion, Klay is without question one of the more recognizable faces in the NBA, and owns one of the more iconic moments in modern NBA history: his 60 point performance in 3 quarters, when he basically didn’t dribble the ball en route to his absurd scoring tally.
Klay’s shooting has always been a strength, and while he has anecdotally been prone to extended slumps, he always regresses to his mean and contributes when he is called upon. His value to the Warriors comes not only in the floor spacing he provides on offense but also in his tenacious on-ball defense, typically against the opposing team’s best backcourt (or sometimes frontcourt) player. In an NBA loaded with elite guards, of the freak athlete (Russell Westbrook), jitterbug (Dame Lillard, Chris Paul) and crafty persuasions (James Harden), Klay doggedly sticks to his guy and makes life as tough as possible. Sometimes, like against Kyrie Irving in the Finals, it doesn’t work; often, however, he comes out on top.
Part of the mythos of Klay is his legendary low-maintenance personality; on a team with four All-Stars, that is no mean feat considering all the different pressures. Steve Kerr has said that if he could run his career (or life) back, he’d want to be Klay, who, to paraphrase, is all about playing hoop and playing with his dog. If you squint hard enough, Klay looks like a very very very rich man’s Robert Horry, mainly from an upkeep standpoint; he’ll shoot 3s, play D, and never try to do something beyond what he knows he can do. Now, Klay’s ceiling and floor are both significantly higher than Big Shot Brob, so this might be a demeaning comparison to make, but the outcomes of their careers are going to be similar, if projections hold. Klay will walk away with a handful (or a pile) of rings and a reputation as a player whose game “wins.”
Expectations: Every year, Klay fills in another minor hole in his game, whether it be his finishing at the rim (remember Klay-ups?) or his dribbling or his passing. Klay himself has set a target of being “more efficient,” and an entry into the hallowed 50-40-90 club (50% from the field, 40% from behind the arc, 90% from the free throw line). Maybe he scores 80 in a game this year without dribbling.
Last season: 10.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game on 41.8% from the field and 30.8% from behind the arc. A ludicrous 5.0 defensive box +/- rating, meaning he provides 5 points of purely defensive value per 100 possessions.
What he brings: The emotional engine of the Warriors, Draymond Green is the epitome of the player you love on your team and hate on other teams. Brash, outspoken, and supremely confident in his abilities, Draymond’s meteoric rise from afterthought second round “tweener” to NBA All-Star was capped this last season with his first Defensive Player of the Year award. A rotisserie-league cheat code, Green stuffs the stat sheet to an unfathomable degree, and he forms the backbone of the Warriors’ most lethal defensive lineups. He also acts as a funnel for much of the hate directed at the Warriors and as the channel through which internal frustrations are released; his ongoing feud with referees in general and the league’s disciplinary committees means writing about the Warriors is never dull.
Draymond is a basketball Omni-tool, capable of defending all five positions with great degrees of success. He takes great pleasure in obliterating whomever he is matched up against, and never backs down from a challenge. While his handles aren’t elite in a classical sense (although he’s quite skilled for a 4/5), he is a brilliant passer with exquisite vision and feel for the game, and his distribution numbers mean he is basically another point guard on the floor. While his shot isn’t elite, on most teams it would have to be respected; on the Warriors, because of the attention played to Klay, Steph, and KD, Draymond is basically always left open. And while his athleticism is also not elite (I believe it was CJ McCollum who told Draymond to do calf raises after he failed to get enough lift on a dunk attempt), Draymond is one of the longest players in the league in terms of wingspan and will leverage his strength and length to snatch rebounds and make the paint his own.
Expectations: another season of Draymond being Draymond, complete with the posturing, flexing, and domination on the basketball court. If he can get his shooting numbers back on track towards his career averages and rein in the technical fouls, that would be a huge bonus; the late season surge he experienced from behind the arc hopefully carries over into this season.