After Warriors’ Klay Thompson was out of commission for 941 days, he made his triumphant return on January 9 against the Cavaliers. Since then, the team has gone 14-8, all without their key cog Draymond Green.
In 17 games, the Washington State product has averaged 17.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3 assists in roughly 25 minutes a game. The minutes is what most fans and analysts are paying attention to as we get closer to playoff time. Since February 7, Thompson’s minutes cap has not risen above 30 minutes, so maybe that could change sooner rather than later. However, Thompson did manage to play over 31 minutes in the game against Denver, just before the All-Star break.
Since his minutes are still down from his career average of 32.9, the per-36 minutes statistically has Thompson’s numbers similar to his career averages. The 17 games this season may be a small sample size, but the numbers of 24.4 points per game, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists round out his per-36 numbers are actually higher than all his previous career numbers.
One factor could be how he is clearly shooting it at a much more frequent rate. His field goal percentage for the season is at 42.3%, on pace for a career-low for the season. After such a long hiatus from the game, most people would not be too surprised to see the shot not falling for a while.
During an appearance on the Bay Area’s 95.7 The Game with Damon and Ratto, coach Steve Kerr laid out the plan for Thompson’s usage come playoff time.
“He’ll be fully capable of playing a 38-minute playoff game without any problem.”
As long as Thompson does not suffer any setbacks this season, it does seem like the sharpshooter will not have that much of a minute’s restriction once the playoffs are underway. Even though it’s vital to have the best players on a team to have their best optimal lineup, it’s definitely a good thing that the team expects Thompson to be at full strength.
Steph Curry Talks Klay Thompson ‘Load Management’
As mentioned previously, Thompson’s minutes have not really gone up from the 30-minute mark since the start of February. The Dubs seem to be taking a more cautious approach to gradually make sure Thompson can get closer to his old form without putting too much stress on his body.
After the win against Portland, Curry addressed Thompson’s minutes, and how they were doing their due diligence to keep his teammate relatively healthy, especially after coming back from some serious injuries.
“It’s more so just trying to budget Klay’s 30 minutes in the right fashion, keep him productive, keep him fresh, try to build a rhythm. And obviously try to have one of us on the court at all times.”
Kerr has started to toy with the rotation to stagger both Thompson and Curry to give the team a better chance to win games without Green. Without Curry on the court, the Dubs have struggled to find much offense. The tweak to play Thompson while Curry isn’t on the court will hopefully allow the team to at least provide a bit of an offensive spark with Thompson there.
Klay Thompson Regrets Coming Back Too Early from ACL Tear
As the saying goes in sports, the game is a matter of inches. Well, in Thompson’s case, his game was a matter of a couple of pounds.
In an interview with The Athletic’s Anthony Slater, Thompson admitted how he was an extra 6-10 pounds heavier than his game shape weight previously.
“I wasn’t at playing weight. I was really strong. I was doing a lot of lifting, strengthening my knee. But I just missed the game so much at that time and I was cleared to play 5-on-5. But I’m not sure if it was the right move.”
He admits he has become more mindful about choices he makes when he gets on the court, especially because he is in his 30s now and isn’t as spry as he once was earlier in his career.
Hopefully, this experience allows Thompson to be more cautious and help him prolong his career as he gets older. With his skills as a shooter, the life line for players like him are much longer than athletic players.
Combined with the intuitive minds of the teams’ training and coaching staff and Thompson’s more conscious approach to taking care of himself, the Bay Area is crossing their fingers that he can stay relatively healthy, and help Curry in the backcourt for many more years to come.