A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Yes, Klay Thompson has been one of the most valuable players in the league

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Klay Thompson and the Warriors front office has been making a lot of bloggers like me look bad. At the time giving up a good shooting guard for a superstar power forward felt like a no brainer.

It’s only been a month and a half but Klay Thompson’s play so far has vindicated the Warriors. Klay is both putting up all-star box score statistics and has dominant +/- statistics.

Just how valuable this version of Klay is if he keeps it up may actually be understated. Because Klay provides a high amount of non-boxscore value.

Half of what makes the Warriors so good isn’t captured in raw statistics. Andrew Bogut’s value on defense goes beyond his 2.2 blocks a game. His positional spacing on help defense will affect plays without him leaving the ground. In addition Warriors fans claim he is a player who’s offensive value goes far beyond his usually pedestrian scoring numbers in areas like picks and directing the floor. In addition to passing which has showed up in a solid 3 assists a game this year. As a Raptors fan I have seen Amir Johnson’s real value playing positional defense and rolling to the rim in always the right place go under appreciated the years. I believe Amir Johnson has one of the 5 best Raptors careers of all time by never averaging more than 10.4 points or 7.5 rebounds a game for the team. It appears Bogut’s value is the Warriors version of this but even better.

Likewise Draymond Green is now an above average player statistically but boxscore stats will miss on his real value. Draymond is arguably one of the best defensive players at the 4 despite averaging an average 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. Furthermore he also spaces the floor as a 36.7% 3pt shooter on 4.9 attempts a game. The league is increasingly prioritizing players who either space the floor or defend. Draymond does both in addition to a now solid scoring game.

This is in addition to Andre Iguodala who’s defensive impact hasn’t been captured by box score stats for years. In addition to fitting intelligently offensively.

Now we get to Klay Thompson. On one hand Klay Thompson also holds ‘non-boxscore’ value like the above. As the best shooter at his position his floor spacing will make offenses better. He is also an above average defender for the position. If you could quantify “spacing+defense” Klay has a case to lead the Warriors. Although I feel Bogut is the most important defender he doesn’t provide floor spacing. Players like Green and Thompson have a more balanced combination of spacing and defense as one of the best shooters at their respective positions. Whether Thompson’s league leading shooting at SG provides more spacing the rarity of a 3pt shooting PF like Green is up for debate.

But thus what makes Thompson’s value scary is he does this while looking like an all-star in the box-score too. Thompson is scoring 21.2 points per game in 33.1 minutes per game which is 23 points per 36 minutes. The efficiency is there unlike previous seasons with a .579 TS% and a well above average 112 ORTG. Klay’s rebounding and assists are up with 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He has a 20.4 PER and his 2.6 Win Shares so far ranks 15th in the league. Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green provide star spacing or defense value while only putting up average statistics. Klay Thompson does it while also adding all-star statistics.

Consider the case of Lamarcus Aldridge who’s value I have often found to be one of the most fascinating in the league. Aldridge is scoring 22.8 points per game at .518 TS% after 23.2 points on .507 TS% last season. His shot selection relies heavily on inefficient long 2 point jump shots hence the below average TS%. In a normal case this would be the sign of an overrated scorer compared to efficient 3pt shooters or scorers at the rim. However Portland is an intelligent analytics team who has been able to build back to back top 5 offenses around Aldridge. The key is spacing. Portland sacrifices Aldridge’s efficiency to make his teammates more efficient. His midrange shooting spaces the the floor when players drive to score in the paint. His skills in the post demands double teams that allows Portland to pass the ball to open 3pt teammates. Portland uses the 2011 Dallas Mavericks model which used Dirk Nowitzki’s floor spacing and ability to draw doubles to masterfully open up space for teammates. In addition to this Aldridge appears to use his physical tools and intelligence to be an above average defensive player for his position. Compare this to Al Jefferson who has similar scoring statistics to Lamarcus Aldridge. Jefferson however does not provide spacing value when he fills space in the post or steps out for midrange shots teams leave him open to take. Defensively he is a negative contributor. Aldridge’s “spacing+defense” combination is positive and Jefferson’s is negative. Jefferson is the less valuable player for reasons box score stats miss.

I thought Paul George might have been the 3rd most valuable player last regular season for the same reason. By the end of the year his scoring stats were a good not great 21.7 points per game on .555 TS%. George added 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals per game. He wasn’t the 3rd best statistical player in the league with standouts like Steph Curry, James Harden and Blake Griffin. But at SF George provided arguably defensive player of the year caliber impact in addition to spacing the floor by hitting 36.4% from 3 on 6.3 attempts a game. By spacing the floor and playing defense he already made a huge difference to the Pacers. When adding the tangible value of scoring near 22 points a game at above average efficiency it makes his impact last year superstar caliber in my opinion.

The reason I bring this all up is Klay Thompson is putting up better offensive statistic than Lamarcus Aldridge and Paul George did last year because of efficiency. He does it while showing up in the spacing and defense comparable to players like Aldridge, Bogut, Green or George. That’s why Klay may be one of the 10 or 15 most valuable players in the league this year.

Written by jr.

December 9, 2014 at 2:53 pm

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