Throughout the offseason, we’ll be counting down the Top 50 players in the NBA from 50 to 1. Who will just miss the cut? Which names do you expect to see? Regardless, you’ll be able to find them all right here.
Why He’s Great: Klay Thompson scored 0.91 points per possession on pick-and-rolls. Russell Westbrook scored 0.89.
Yes, the sample is small. And yes, Thompson has the benefit of playing with great shooters. But that number is meaningful. It’s the same number as Jimmy Butler. It’s above Dwyane Wade and John Wall. It helps dispel the notion that Thompson can’t dribble. He’s never going to be Kyrie Irving, but he is not Kyle Korver either. He’s an all-around scorer who can operate with or without the ball.
We came for the three-point shooting and we stay for the defense, but pigeonholing Klay Thompson makes very little sense. He could be a team’s primary scorer. The fact that he has adapted to Kevin Durant’s arrival so readily is a testament to the person he is. The numbers he is going to put up once he does get his own team will show the kind of player he is.
Why He’s Below No. 18 (DeMarcus Cousins): Because DeMarcus Cousins shot almost 38 percent on three-pointers last year. Really think about the implications of that number. DeMarcus Cousins is the kind of player who could casually make six three-pointers in a game as a fringe benefit. It wouldn’t detract from anything else that he brings to the table, it would just be a pleasant surprise.
Klay Thompson is never going to be a great rim-protector or grab 25 rebounds or dominate a game from the low block. Thompson can do more than people give him credit for, but Cousins can do anything.
There’s also a matter of basic talent. Thompson is a good athlete with very good measurables (particularly his wingspan). But he was not put on this Earth to play basketball in the way that Cousins was. Cousins, behind LeBron and maybe one or two other guys, might be the most talented player on Earth. Thompson has extracted much more out of himself than Cousins has on a relative basis. But, Boogie’s raw talent is always bubbling under the surface ready to completely take over a game, series or season.
That’s the ultimate difference. Klay has limitations. He’s a better overall player than he gets credit for, but he’s human. The only thing holding Boogie back is himself. When his head is on straight and when he gets the right teammates, he is an MVP-caliber player. That’s not Klay.