COMMENTARY | The Golden State Warriors' roster is shaping up quite nicely for the start of the 2013-14 NBA season. With a roster full of young, rising stars and other quality players, the Warriors are ready to contend with arguably their best team of the past 20 years.
That being said, while there are many very good players on the Warriors' roster, there is one player in particular who has more to prove than anyone else next season: Klay Thompson.
Entering his third NBA season, the 6-foot-7 shooting guard is at a crucial point in his career. With every move and decision carefully scrutinized and examined by fans and pundits across the league, Thompson has the most to prove out of any player on the Warriors this season.
1. Harrison Barnes is waiting in the wings
With the signing of 2012 All-Star Andre Iguodala, the Warriors are in the envious position of having a logjam on the wings. With three capable starters for the two available spots, Thompson and Iguodala will likely start at shooting guard and small forward, respectively.
This leaves Barnes, who started 81 regular-season games as a rookie last year, as the likely candidate going to the bench. Being a young consummate professional, he's OK with the move.
"My role will remain the same -- do whatever it takes to win," Barnes said in an interview with Sporting News. "Whether it is starting, coming off the bench. There are plenty of minutes to be divided up among everybody. I just have to make sure I am ready."
Just because he's OK with the move doesn't mean Thompson should be content and become complacent with his starting role. With another young star available to step into the starting lineup at a moment's notice, he will need to perform at an optimum level in order to prove his worthiness as a starter and remain in the starting five. This internal competition will hopefully boost Thompson to new heights.
2. Continuing to grow as a top-notch defender
Thompson declared for the 2011 NBA draft after his junior season at Washington State. Known primarily as a sharpshooter, he was prized for what he could do on offense. While the expectation was for him to improve his defense in the NBA, few could have guessed he would become a team's defensive stopper.
This is exactly what happened last season, as Thompson was often paired up against the opposition's best perimeter scorer. While he isn't gifted with excellent quickness or athleticism, he uses his length effectively and served as a versatile defender in big situations for the Warriors last season.
In his quest to become a great two-way player, his defense has become as much of Thompson's game as his offense. With an elite perimeter defender in Iguodala now on the roster, he will no longer have to always guard the opposing team's best scorer. Up against second or third options on offense, he should continue to grow as a defensive presence and display his value.
Often receiving the brunt of criticism when the Warriors performed poorly, his defense can make up for nights when he struggles from the field. With Thompson and Iguodala on the wings, the duo could make Golden State's perimeter defense elite.
3. Consistency is key
Thompson was very inconsistent on offense last season. When he was on his game and making his shots, no one looked better. However, when he was down, he disappeared and became a lost soul on the court.
After an up-and-down sophomore season, he now enters this all-important third year of his career. By now, he is expected to be more consistent and contribute as an all-around player. Stretches of poor shooting this season will not be tolerated given the greater choice of options available on the bench like Barnes, Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas, Jermaine O'Neal, and Kent Bazemore.
He has all the tools needed to become a great player in the league. Now it's just a matter of him avoiding stretches where he becomes a liability to the team's success. His consistency this season will dictate the amount of playing time he deserves.
4. Cutting down on mental mistakes
One area where Thompson needs more consistency is in his decision making. Not known as a playmaker, there were times where he displayed bad judgment with his passing and shot selection. Part of his growth in Year 3 will be reducing these mistakes.
As he played last season, there were times where he didn't necessarily play smart. Especially when it came to bad shooting nights, Thompson would sometimes try too hard to make up for his early mistakes, thus creating more errors.
Confidence will be crucial for improving this aspect of his game. As he continues to develop and mesh with his new teammates, his need to facilitate and handle the ball should decrease, which will let him focus on his stronger attributes.
5. Lower expectations means he can focus on his strengths
The addition of Iguodala means there is another exceptional scorer on the roster. Consequently, this adds another player opposing teams have to focus on not named Thompson. This can only make his life easier on the offensive end.
With so many other options on offense, Thompson won't be called upon to be a top scorer every night. As like many other elite teams in the Western Conference, he could become the player on the Warriors who primarily contributes by making 3-pointers on offense and plays great defense.
With lower expectations, he should easily take another step forward in his development. Depending on what the coaching staff wants, he can stay in his comfort zone as a stand-still, wide-open 3-point shooter. In what should be his easiest season to date given the talent around him, Thompson can work on excelling his best qualities.
Austin Chang is a San Francisco Bay Area-based sports writer covering the Golden State Warriors for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He is the Associate Editor of Sports Out West and an intern for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow this contributor on Twitter @_austinchang.
- Sports & Recreation
- Golden State Warriors
- Klay Thompson
- Andre Iguodala