Should the Warriors trade Klay Thompson?

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It's no secret that there were questions coming into the 2016-17 season which of the Golden State Warrior players would have the hardest time adjusting. On the one hand, Kevin Durant was joining a new system after being the focal point of an offense in Oklahoma City. Then you have Steph, who was used to being the magician in Oakland, throwing crossovers, 35-foot three point shots, and acrobatic finishes at the rim that left you in awe. Of little question was Draymond Green, often noted as a system player and though he's far from that, his game is very adaptable.

But what about Klay Thompson, who took the second-most shots on the team in 2015-16? An obvious 3-point threat, Klay was often the recipient of the ball in Golden State's pass-friendly offense. He lit the bottom of the net on fire on a nightly basis, shooting 42% from three, and 51% inside the arc. He played solid defense. He was a key contributor to that team's success, and yet, he has struggled the most to adjust to the addition of Kevin Durant.

Shooting an abysmal 19% on three point shots on the second-most attempts per game of his career, Thompson has found no success in the early going. Beyond that, he has looked out of sync with the offense. In this clip here, Klay is denied twice and looks completely dejected.

 

In that game, Thompson shot 6-of-17 overall, and 0-of-7 from beyond the arc, yet the Warriors won by 23 points. Beyond that game, Klay has looked uncomfortable and is sticking out like a sore thumb in an offense that normally flows like the Grand Rapids. In last night's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Klay had one of his better games on the season, but what the box score doesn't tell you is that he was playing in garbage time against the end of OKC's bench. When Klay was in the game with the starters, he had several plays where it was evident he was not on the same page with his teammates. A lot of his production came when the Warriors were already up by 20 points. Ian Clark has also become a staple for the team, and he plays a hybrid role between point and shooting guard. Clark is currently shooting 41% from three and his per-36 scoring is equivalent to Thompson's thus far.


It sounds ludicrous, but think about it; the Warriors have enough offensive power to go around on the perimeter, but lack a presence inside. Could they send Klay Thompson to the Sacramento Kings for DeMarcus Cousins? More importantly, should they?


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The contracts certainly line up enough to do so, and Sacramento is unlikely to retain Cousins when he becomes a free agent after next year. Klay Thompson is still an elite shooter, a good defender, and a team-first player. Sacramento could start building around Thompson, Golden State could get the interior help they currently lack.

The Warriors lost a significant rim protector in Andrew Bogut, and Zaza Pachulia is currently averaging 0.6 blocks per game. While Cousins isn't an elite rim protector, he does have seasons of 1.7 and 1.4 blocks per game. The real benefit, though, would be the massive upgrade on offense. Pachulia is currently averaging 6 points and 8 rebounds per game, where Cousins is averaging 27.8 and 9.2. Pachulia hasn't attempted a 3-point shot this season, and Cousins is a career 29% 3-point shooter.

It certainly seems as though the Warriors would be hard-pressed not to complete that sort of trade...

EXCEEEEPT, there's actually a lot of reason to be optimistic about Klay turning things around. He's currently shooting a career high 60% on 2-point field goals, 91% on free throw attempts, and the defense is still there. Klay is a few hot streaks away from joining the coveted 50/40/90 club. Only 7 players in NBA history have been part of that club while averaging 15 or more points per game.


The Warriors would also be giving up some of their offensive versatility if they brought a score-first center like Cousins in. Right now, they have wings that are capable of playing the 2, 3, and occasionally 4, along with Draymond Green being the perfect "stretch-5" for Golden State. Losing Klay would mean more minutes being allocated to Clark, Livingston, Iguodala, and though those players are perfectly capable, they don't bring the two-way versatility that Thompson does.


The right approach for the Warriors, and the one they will likely take, is to wait and see. If Klay is still struggling near the trade deadline, it's possible that he gets moved. But given his track record as a steady character, it seems certain that his performance will be a distant memory come playoff time. The Warriors are a team built on chemistry, shooting, and camaraderie. Klay is an important part of that organization and brings all three of those elements along with him.

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