Klay Thompson's injury means three Warriors role players must step up

Grant Liffmann
·4 min read

Three Warriors role players who must step up with Klay out originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

There is no going around it, the news of Klay Thompson tearing his Achilles tendon is devastating on many levels, first and foremost for the man himself. 

The Warriors' franchise was dealt a massive blow with the gut-punch of losing their future Hall of Fame star. A roster that already was in dire need of wings just lost their best one. So how do the Warriors overcome this loss?

First, the team will look for trades and free-agent signings to fill the void. Second, the Warriors obviously will rely on superstar Steph Curry to carry an even larger load, and Draymond Green can return to some variation of his old self. Third, the coaching staff will try to bring the most out of Andrew Wiggins, something they were hoping to avoid in terms of applying pressure on the young star.

And finally, the Warriors will need the rest of the current roster to step up and play roles that most likely were not expected of them this season.

According to Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, the onus starts on Eric Paschall.

"The guy's got it. His game, it wasn't a fluke," Mullin said on the "Dubs Talk" podcast.

"He played the whole season, he hit a little lull but he had a little hamstring injury. But to me, he'll take that next step. And again, the way the game is now, the next step for him is hitting open 3's. Because one-on-one they can't stop him."

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Paschall finished his impressive rookie campaign by landing on the NBA All-Rookie first team. He averaged 14 points per game on the season, to go with 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He shot a solid 49.7 percent from the field, but struggled to find consistency from deep, shooting only 28.7 percent on the season. Mullin, like many others, thinks that developing his 3-point shot is what can take Paschall to another level. But until then, he still has all the right tools to succeed.

"He's physical, he's explosive, he finishes around the rim, he gets to the free throw line and makes his free throws. We talked a lot about it last season, him being able to play with Draymond. That's important. Defensively I think he guards the ball handlers really well on switches."

Paschall plays more of the power forward role though, while the void that Thompson leaves will be more in the wing/shooting guard spot. As of now, two players on guaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts fit that role: Damion Lee and Jordan Poole. So who does Mullin expect to be counted on most?

"Damion Lee has a little more experience," Mullin explained, "so he is more apt to get to the open space at the 3-point shot, and whether he has made two or three or missed two or three, if that is the right shot to take he will take that shot. He's not going to run off into the paint and clog things up. He's going to be in the right place. He's got confidence in his 3-point shot. He played well last year, he had some big games, he competes on the defensive end, he competes on rebounding, so I like him."

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Lee averaged 29 minutes and 12.7 points per game, on 35.6 percent shooting from deep to go with 4.9 rebounds. He had some stretches during the season in which he looked like a solid NBA starter, including the last 16 games of the season, in which Lee played 31.7 minutes per game, and averaged 15.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals, shooting at a 37.6 percent clip from long range.

Poole on the other hand struggled throughout the season to find his shooting stroke, making only 33.3 percent of his shots from the field and 27.9 percent from deep. Like Lee, late in the season when Poole was given more leeway and playing time, as well as put into a role as a primary ball handler and playmaker, he excelled. In his last 13 games, Poole played 27.2 minutes per game and averaged 14.3 points and dished out 3.9 assists, while improving his shooting considerably to 47.2 percent from the field and 31 percent from deep.

"Jordan Poole showed some promise," Mullin said. "He played a little point guard, but the one thing he is going to need to do is knock down open shots. When you're open, be confident and knock those shots down."

The Warriors surely are trying to figure out the best way to add to their roster to compete for a title next season, but if they intend to be at their best, they will need these three players, as well as the other stalwarts, to step up.