When the Warriors drafted Washington State guard Klay Thompson with the 11th selection in Thursday night's draft, the pick was both praised for value and questioned for fit. Thompson is a well-regarded player, one of the best shooters available, and the kind of guy who could have a long, if not star-like, NBA career. On the other hand, the Warriors don't exactly need more scoring. Thompson is a good player, but he might not make much sense for the Warriors.
Unless, that is, they pull the trigger on any one of the much-rumored trades involving star scoring guard Monta Ellis. Golden State brass have claimed in recent days that they're not trading Ellis, but the many deals reported by various outlets in the past few weeks suggest that's not the case. Nevertheless, general manager Larry Riley repeated these claims in a press conference following the Thompson pick. From Diamond Leung for TrueHoop (via PBT):
If the Golden State Warriors are indeed exploring trade possibilities for Monta Ellis, their backcourt just got more crowded after the selection of Washington State's Klay Thompson with the No. 11 overall draft pick.
But Warriors general manager Larry Riley downplayed reading too much into the team adding Thompson, who was considered one of the top shooters in the draft after leading the Pac-10 in scoring last season.
"We feel Klay is a player who can play the 3 and 2," Riley said. "We're going to have room for a backup 3 and that may be a way for Klay Thompson to get more minutes. This in no way affects our motivation to trade any player."
At a skinny 6-foot-7, Thompson projects as more of a shooting guard than small forward, so it's understandable that most people would look at his suggestion and assume Ellis was on the way out. However, the Warriors need depth in every aspect of the game, to the point where Thompson could play a reserve role at both positions and play around 20 minutes as a rookie. Ellis led the league in minutes per game (40.3) last year and starting forward Dorell Wright finished an unreasonable seventh (38.4), so it's not as if there aren't plenty of reserve minutes to go around. Depth is a huge need for Golden State regardless of position, and Thompson can help in that area.
Thompson may eventually become a starter-quality NBA player, but he's not there yet. Trading Ellis just because of the presence of a late-lottery pick would be an overreaction and only exacerbate the team's depth problem, especially if another young player comes back in the deal.
The Warriors need to get better on defense, but they also need an infusion of depth. If they can trade Ellis and improve both areas, then it's a good deal. It's just that Thompson does little to clarify Ellis' status on this roster. He fills a need, but he's far from a replacement.