More than any other player, Klay Thompson’s scoring numbers have been directly linked to whether the Warriors win or lose a game in 2016-17.
Kevin Durant is in the MVP discussion for his efficiency, Steph Curry is still the best shooter alive, but Thompson’s effectiveness — and at times, ineffectiveness — should not get lost in the equation for what makes the Warriors tick.
In Warriors victories this season, the All-Star shooting guard is averaging 22.2 points per game, 48.7 percent from the floor and 41.8 percent from downtown.
In losses, Thompson sees his points per game plummet to 15.3, the largest difference of anyone on the team. The shooting numbers dip several percentage points as well — 35.3 percent from the floor and 28.1 from downtown.
Thompson failed to score 20 points in five of the losses this season. The same type of trend was true for the Warriors in 2015-16, when Thompson averaged 22.7 in 73 wins and 17.7 in nine losses.
To compare, Curry’s points per game in wins is 24.9 and 22.9 in losses — just a 2 point drop-off instead of 7 points. Strikingly, Durant is actually averaging more points per game in losses (29.1) than he is in victories (25.7).
These aren’t hard and fast rules that automatically can determine the outcome of the game. The Warriors can obviously survive when Thompson has an off night. Thompson scored 10 points in a Dec. 8 win over Utah and 14 points in a Nov. 11 win against Portland. It should also be mentioned that his 60 point eruption on Dec. 5 have skewed the numbers some.
Still, Thompson’s production in losses is an interesting statistic to monitor as January turns into February. But when Thompson isn’t himself, the rest of the team is left trying to compensate.
These aren’t advanced analytics at all, but it shows you the importance of Thompson, who actually hasn’t had to sacrifice anything this season.
Shots per game last season: 17.3
Shots per game this season: 17.0
Usage rate last season: 26.4
Usage rate this season: 24.9
On a day-to-day, game-planning basis, not much has changed with Thompson’s role. That’s a tremendous credit to every party involved. Steve Kerr has mastered the rotations so Thompson can dominate the ball in staggered lineups without KD and Steph. And when all the stars are on the court together Durant has rarely been ball dominant, instead feeding off the spacing. Curry, who has had the bigger adjustment to make, has requested more pick-and-rolls and less off-the-ball movement. The tinkering is still happening halfway through the season. This is without mentioning Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark, all who touch and score the basketball with regularity too.
But there is an inherent power Thompson carries with his shooting stroke. When he’s on, the Warriors are nearly impossible to beat. And when he’s not, there is a small window of vulnerability where an opponent can attack.
Kevin Jones and Jake Montero contributed to this post