Klay Thompson’s return to the court for the Golden State Warriors almost two weeks ago stole all the headlines.
It was a magical evening for Thompson, who had been sidelined since June 2019 due to a torn ACL and a subsequent Achilles injury that he suffered during his rehabilitation process. The Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Chase Center, 96-82, in an atmosphere that was likened to that of an NBA Finals game. The 31-year-old guard scored 17 points along with three three-pointers and one memorable dunk that turned into the highlight of the evening.
With the adrenaline from his season debut now in the rearview, the reality of the uphill climb that the three-time NBA Champion still has to face before regaining his All-Star form has come to the surface. While he has scored at least 11 points in his six appearances so far, he has only breached the 20-point mark once.
The five-time NBA All-Star is currently averaging 14.7 points on just 37.2% shooting from the field. His three-point shooting has also been substandard as he has made just 30.2% of his 7.2 attempts per game. These are well-below his career average of 19.5 points on 45% field goal shooting and 41.8% three-point shooting.
What Thompson has going for him is that Golden State is by no means rushing him to regain his pre-injury self. Though he has returned to his customary role as the team’s starting shooting guard, he has played sparingly and is averaging just 21.3 minutes per game. Head coach Steve Kerr has also been capping his stints to a maximum of six consecutive minutes in order to prevent him from reaggravating his injuries.
When taking into account the restrictions that have been put on his playing time, the amount of points that Thompson has been able to put up over these confining circumstances is actually quite impressive. He is attempting 14.3 shots per game which translates to 0.67 shot attempts per minute that he is on the floor. Only a shooter of Thompson’s caliber would be given a light that green and this kind of confidence will only help him regain his elite status sooner rather than later.
He had his best game of the season so far earlier this week versus the lottery-bound Detroit Pistons. Thompson looked confident and aggressive on both ends before eventually finishing with 21 points, three threes, three rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
More importantly, he also showed that he has begun to grow more comfortable with his teammates–most of whom he is playing with for the first time given how long he has been sidelined.
For more context on how much time has elapsed since he last suited up for the Warriors, teammate Andre Iguodala was on the team during the NBA Finals game where Thompson was injured. This means that throughout Iguodala’s entire two-season detour to Memphis and Miami before returning to Golden State this season, Thompson was on the sidelines.
So despite Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and Juan Toscano-Anderson already playing in their third season in a Warriors uniform, this is shockingly the first time that they get to play with the other half of the Splash Brothers in an NBA game.
Although he fell back to Earth in their 121-117 overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers where he scored just 12 points on six-of-17 shooting, Thompson has shown encouraging flashes of his old form. He should only get better as he gets more reps, but it may take a couple of months before he gets back to where he used to be. The eventual return of Draymond Green and his playmaking abilities over the coming weeks should only help accelerate the process for Thompson.
In a season that is as wide open as this one, Thompson’s play may very well determine how far Golden State can go. His progress will be closely monitored by the rest of the league and if he can regain even just 75% of his pre-injury form, then the Warriors should be considered among the odds-on favorites to win the title.