Klay Thompson’s Return From Injury Immediately Makes the Golden State Warriors Favorites to Win the NBA Championship
After posting the best record in the NBA for almost the entirety of the regular season, the Golden State Warriors have fallen behind the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference standings. But the Dubs are poised to receive a significant boost in the form of All-NBA guard Klay Thompson, who is set to return against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Warriors have been held afloat by Stephen Curry and his record-breaking season. But Steph is a little banged up and has fallen back to Earth (by his standards).
Golden State needs a shot in the arm. Thompson provides precisely that. And, if they weren’t already, it makes Golden State the favorites to win the 2021-22 NBA championship.
Golden State has been at or near the top of the NBA this season
The Warriors are 29-9 through this season’s first 38 games. Golden State has been near the top of the pack in almost every significant category, and the Dubs are still hanging around.
Offensively, the team is top-10 in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage (despite also being fourth in 3-point attempts), rebounding, and assists (first).
Defensively, Golden State is top 10 in steals, blocks, defensive rating (first), opponent second-chance points, opponent fast-break points, and opponent points in the paint.
The Warriors are second overall in the NBA in plus-minus.
In summation: even without Thompson, the team is one of the best in the NBA on both ends of the floor. They’re a legitimate championship contender even without one of the league’s best two-way guards.
So how high will the Dubs vault when Thompson returns?
Klay Thompson’s return from injury will provide the Warriors a lift and put them in legit title contention
Klay hasn’t played in an NBA game for more than two calendar years.
The last time he suited up for the Warriors was June 13, 2019, during that season’s NBA Finals. He was the second major blow to Golden State after Kevin Durant was hurt earlier in the series.
It’s been 84 years… Not exactly Rose, but it has been two years, six months, and 27 days.
Thompson’s return has been rumored since the season began. The original hope was around Christmas time. But Boxing Day came and went with no Klay.
Now, however, is finally the time.
This season, Golden State is already one of the best offensive teams in the NBA without one of the league’s best offensive players.
Thompson has a career scoring average of 19.5 points and shooting splits of 45.9/41.9/84.8. Since he entered the NBA, the 6-foot-6 guard has been one of the league’s deadliest marksmen.
He was getting off more than eight threes a game in 2015-16 and ’17-18 and making 41.9%. He “dropped” to 7.4 attempts in ’17-18 and ’18-19 and shot 42.0%.
Curry has seemingly broken every 3-point record known to humankind this season. With his fellow Splash Brother in the mix and the jump fellow guard Jordan Poole has made, Golden State’s offense becomes even better.
That should be scary for any other team gunning for this year’s Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The league should be worried once Klay, Steph, and the Warriors get up to full speed
It will be an easing-in process for Thompson. Having not played real NBA minutes in so long, he will have to get his sea legs under him, so to speak.
But his integration into head coach Steve Kerr’s offense shouldn’t be too difficult as he has experience with the scheme and Warriors’ key players like Curry and Draymond Green.
It’s important not to forget that this year’s Golden State team has also been one of the best defensive squads in the league. And Klay was second-team All-Defense the season he got hurt.
Maybe the Warriors already are the running favorites to win this year’s championship. But they certainly have competition from teams like Phoenix, the Utah Jazz, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Brooklyn Nets, and a few others.
But when their eighth-year guard is back to 100% and is fully integrated into this year’s squad, it could be goodnight Irene on the rest of the NBA.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.