Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson completed his much anticipated return to the NBA in style, notching a career milestone after taking the court for the first time in nearly two and a half years.
Thompson started the game, recorded the Dubs’ first team bucket and ended up posting an impressive stat line of 17 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block on 7 for 18 shooting from the field, including 3 of 8 on shots from behind the arc — all in just 20 minutes of play. Despite showing a shockingly minor amount of rust, what made the performance even more impressive was that it was accomplished against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the third-ranked defensive squad in the league with a defensive rating of 104.8, per NBA.com.
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Thompson led all Golden State scorers, save for fellow Splash Brother Steph Curry, with his 17 points Sunday night, January 9. But those baskets earned the shooting guard something else as well, a place in an elite offensive club he’s been on the verge of cracking for years.
Golden State’s official team Twitter account tweeted out congratulations to Thompson on the achievement during the game.
“Welcome to the 12K career points club,” the team wrote.
Thompson on Path to Becoming Elite Career Scorer in NBA
Thompson fittingly surpassed the 12,000-point mark with a 3-point splash, his first since the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, which came late in the second quarter of the Dub’s 96-82 victory over the Cavs.
Now, with 12,012 career points, Thompson is still fairly far down on the NBA’s list of all-time leading scorers in 263rd place, just behind recently retired sharpshooter J.J. Redick and six slots back of collegiate golfer J.R. Smith.
Of course, had Thompson not been sidelined for the previous 175 regular season games, he’d be considerably higher on the list. In fact, based on a 19.5 career points per game average, Thompson would have scored another 3,412 points during the time he missed across the last three regular seasons. Assuming his averages remained true, the expected accumulation of offense would have slotted Thompson in 131st place on the all-time career scoring list at 15,424, just a few spots behind the likes of Walt Frazier and a handful of points away from catching the legendary “Pistol” Pete Maravich.
It is also important to note that playoff scoring is a different category entirely. Thompson is already 47th on that list with 2,372 playoff points for his career. He is almost certain to add to those numbers this postseason, as the Warriors are tied with the Phoenix Suns for the best record in the NBA at 30-9 and are poised to make a deep playoff run.
Thompson’s Return Could Mean Curry Resurgence
There is more to Thompson’s return to game action than just the tangible production he provides on the stat sheet. The shooting guard also creates spacing that makes life a whole lot easier on Curry, who has had to work a lot harder for the looks he gets with his backcourt running mate relegated to the bench.
The Dubs’ point guard started off the season on an MVP-style tear but has struggled shooting the ball, at least by his standards, over the last several games. In fact, Curry was shooting less than 37% from the field during the course of a 16-game run leading up to Thompson’s return to the starting lineup Sunday night.
That all changed against the Cavs, despite Thompson playing just 20 minutes as head coach Steve Kerr eases him back into action. Curry went 10 for 21 from the field, scored 28 points and saw his shooting percentage jump 11% against Cleveland as compared to the previous 16 outings. That improvement is due, at least in part, to defenders respecting the Dubs’ spacing more now with Thompson to worry about.
All signs point to the notion that only good things are yet to come for both Thompson and Curry, as well as the entire Warriors’ offense, now that the band is finally back together.