Klay Thompson is off to a blazing hot offensive start to this season. That’s saying something, considering there was once a widespread belief that he’d be the member of the Golden State Warriors most negatively affected by the arrival of Kevin Durant.
However, the pursuit of 50-40-80 shooting percentages isn’t the only thing fueling Thompson. (And it’s 53-47-83 this season, but who’s counting?) Perhaps driven by his snub from All-Defensive Teams last season, Thompson says he’s looking to add shot-blocking to his repertoire.
“I’m trying to average one block a game,” Thompson said, per the San Francisco Chronicle. “For a shooting guard, that’d be really good.”
“I don’t know how many (guards) are doing that, so that’d be really nice,” said Thompson, who has never averaged more than 0.8 blocks per game for an entire season. “If I get a block a game and I play stalwart defense, I’d be satisfied.”
These aren’t just wild musings of China Klay either. We’ve already seen him stuff LaMarcus Aldridge at the rim to cap off a rout of the San Antonio Spurs last Thursday, and with nine swats in 10 appearances heading into Monday’s matchup with the Miami Heat, he is nearly averaging a block per game already.
It’s an entirely arbitrary goal, but during a season in which Warriors head coach Steve Kerr wondered whether complacency would set in with his championship team, this is just the sort of attitude needed to keep the veterans locked in during their 82-game march to the playoff rounds. Coaches hear about players chasing stats on the offensive end and have nightmares about Ricky Davis, but proclamations about defensive goals are seemingly always welcomed. It would also put Thompson in a club nearly as exclusive as the 50-40-90 club he’s chasing.
Shot-blocking guards are a rarity. In between staying in front of ball-handlers, watching passing lanes on the perimeter and a lack of opportunities to swat shots the paint, it’s not a priority for coaches. The only guards currently averaging one block per game are John Wall and transition shot-blocker extraordinaire Danny Green. (Dwyane Wade, maybe the greatest shot-blocking guard ever, has topped the mark six times in his career.)
Thompson isn’t a quick leaper who’s likely to slap shots away at their apex or execute chasedown blocks. But his 6-foot-7 frame and defensive fundamentals put him in position to occasionally cram field goal attempts in half-court possessions before they can even be launched out of shooters’ hands.
The Warriors defense led the league in blocked shots last season, and are on pace to do so again. They’re so far ahead of the league in packin’ shots that the difference between the Warriors and the Spurs, who sit in second, is equal to the disparity between the Spurs and the 15th-place Washington Wizards.
We know what Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Durant are, and just how good they make the Warriors on both ends of the floor. But every time Thompson expands his horizons, the already microscopic margin of error that every other team has when facing the defending champs gets even smaller.