Klay Thompson Unleashed: When The Warriors Star Takes Over

Klay Thompson Unleashed: When The Warriors Star Takes Over
Eastern and Western Conference playoff races heat up IMG

In every game, the Warriors transform. They shift from turnover-prone to savvy in a wink. They transition from a vaguely interested powerhouse to a decisive force come every third quarter. They let opponents run with them before changing shape—through switches and denial—to take away everything that offense needs to survive. We’ve seen an attack structured around Kevin Durant and one around Stephen Curry; lineups that unlock with JaVale McGee as a lob threat or David West as a floor balancer; and unabashed three-hunters shift toward smart cuts as a counter. If ever an opponent feels it has the Warriors pinned down, the slightest change in structure or focus can again spring them free.

There is a Golden State variant for every occasion. One of them, however, is fleeting. Durant’s imminent return is an unquestionable positive for the Warriors though it spells the likely end of one of their more fascinating iterations: an MVP-less offense prime for a Klay Thompson takeover.

Durant missing more than a month tipped the balance of the Warriors’ rotation. No longer was Steve Kerr deciding which scorer to pair with Draymond Green in the rotation or how to best stagger his twin superstars. Curry and Thompson would have to stretch further as scorers and to do that means affording Thompson more minutes as a primary scorer. Thompson had logged 225 minutes without Durant or Curry on the floor in the 58 games prior to Durant’s injury—around 3.9 minutes per game, according to NBA Wowy. Once Durant went down, the Warriors nearly doubled that allotment over just 16 games, resulting in 11.9 minutes of Solo Klay per game.

In them, the Warriors run a patient offense. Golden State’s bench is particularly short on players who specialize in initiating a pick-and-roll or excel at breaking down their man off the…