He has long been considered one of the best two-way players in the NBA, a dynamic long-range shooter and a lockdown defender, and yet Golden State’s serene Klay Thompson rarely gets recognized for his defensive prowess.
Thompson takes pride in defending the elite guards and forwards in the NBA, willing to go from LeBron James to Kyrie Irving to James Harden to Chris Paul to Damian Lillard to CJ McCollum or any of the game’s top scorers.
But over his eight-year career, Thompson has never been selected to the NBA All-Defensive team.
“I think my competitiveness is what allows me to play both sides of the ball,” Thompson said after Golden State completed practice Wednesday in preparation for Thursday night’s Game 2 of the Western Conference finals at Oracle Arena his team leads 1-0 over the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I hate getting scored on and I’m such a perfectionist with my shooting, sometimes to a fault. So for me, it’s just about channeling that fire the right way and I think as my career has gone on I’ve been able to do that.”
In the series against Houston, Thompson was tasked at times with having to defend the lethal Harden, the wily Paul and the proficient Eric Gordon.
The 6-foot-7 Thompson never backed down.
“If you just go back over the years, go down the list of top five, six players in the league, Klay guards those guys,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Whether it’s LeBron or Kyrie against Cleveland or [Russell] Westbrook when we play OKC [Oklahoma City], Harden, Chris Paul, he guards everyone. That’s why he’s one of the very best players in the league.
“The playoffs are all about two-way players. You got to be able to score. You got to be able to defend. Two-way guys rule the game in the playoffs and Klay is right at the top of the list when you talk about two-way players.”
Even in this Warriors-Trail Blazers series, Thompson has started on McCollum and moved over to Lillard, who is expected to play despite a sore right hamstring from Tuesday night’s game.
“They are both very, very talented with the ball in their hands,” Thompson said. “They can make every move in the book. Dame has unlimited range.”
With Thompson playing on a team with a collection of superstars (Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant) and stars (Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins), perhaps that’s why he doesn’t get more credit for his ability to excel on both sides of the basketball.
“I think Klay gets lost in the shuffle a little bit around here just because you got Steph and KD, two past MVPs,” Kerr said. “Draymond gets a lot of attention, as he should. He’s an All-Star player. He’s kind of the emotional heartbeat of our team. So, Klay just kind of blends in sometimes. But you ask any coach around the league, and he’s one of the most respected players in the game because of his ability to play both ends.”
Thompson has been a five-time All-Star and has twice made the All-NBA team.
But more important to the 29-year-old is that he has won three NBA championships and is pushing to add another to his resume by playing his tough defense and knocking down his three-point bombs.
“To be able to do what we do year in and year out, I do not take it for granted,” Thompson said. “I just try to enjoy it for as long as I can because it’s a very special position I’m in to be on such a great team.”