It has been 493 days since Warriors star Klay Thompson has played in an NBA game, at least as of the time this blog was written. Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, and so much has changed in the league during that time.
Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston aren't on the Warriors' roster, for starters. The Los Angeles Lakers were crowned NBA champions from a bubble at Walt Disney World just this month. And in between, a talented crop of young players emerged among the league's elite.
Thompson was an NBA All-Star in each of the five seasons preceding this one. It would be difficult for him to reach that level in his first season back from a significant injury, but NBC Sports NBA insider Tom Haberstroh believes the league's aforementioned youth is Thompson's biggest obstacle between him and becoming an All-Star next season.
"I don't (think he'll be an All-Star), and that's OK!" Haberstroh told NBC Sports Bay Area earlier this week. "He's got a bunch of rings and bunch of All-Star appearances to show for how good he is, but let me read you a list of players who did not make the All-Star team last year (from the Western Conference): Jamal Murray, Kristaps Porzingis, Paul George, Zion Williamson, Karl-Anthony Towns and, oh yeah, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. And I didn't even mention (NBA Rookie of the Year) Ja Morant!
"So, for Klay Thompson to make the All-Star team, he's gonna have to jump [over all] those players to get in there, and that's a lot of young talent that's gonna get better with an offseason. ... It's a crowded field, but right now it looks like he's gonna be on the outside looking in on the All-Stars."
George, Curry and Green are established veterans, of course, but none of the other players Haberstroh mentioned are older than 25. Porzingis -- who, coincidentally, played his first season back from a torn ACL last year -- and Towns are the old heads of the group as members of the 2015 draft class, but their time is coming. Murray took a star turn in the bubble -- just don't call him the next Curry -- while Williamson and Morant looked like budding NBA superstars in their rookie seasons.
Thompson wasn't voted a backcourt starter in each of his five All-Star selections, and he'll now face even stiffer competition for one of those spots with Murray and Morant firmly in the mix. The NBA's head coaches have just seven spots to pick reserves from from a big pool of deserving players in the Western Conference. Even if Thompson doesn't miss a beat next season, it's going to be harder than ever to stand out.
Thompson has bigger aspirations in mind than being an All-Star next season when he makes his long-awaited return to the court. The Warriors are out to prove they're still an elite team after finishing an NBA-worst 15-50 last season with Curry and Thompson out for the vast majority of it, and Thompson looking like his old self will go a long way.
If Golden State re-establishes itself as an NBA title contender next season, the infamously chill Thompson probably won't have any issues being overlooked for individual honors.