What has long been anecdotally true, but never official, in regards to the Golden State Warriors’ defense is that one of the team’s best shooters — arguably the greatest jump shooter of all time — has also been one of if not the team’s best defender.
Klay Thompson has drawn the toughest defensive matchups consistently throughout Golden State’s run of reaching five NBA Finals in five years — something only accomplished by the Boston Celtics, who won eight straight NBA titles from 1959 to 1966 — and on Wednesday, he was recognized.
For the first time in his career, Thompson — who becomes a free agent this summer — was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team. He joins former NBA Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green, who also made the second team.
While Green — who made it his stated goal to get back to DPOY form this year — will likely be disappointed (he’s still made the NBA All-Defensive team five straight years — a franchise record — the award is validation of Thompson’s work over the last seven years to become one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA.
Thompson’s advanced stats don’t tell the full story. His regular-season defensive efficiency of 107.8 ranked 286th in the NBA, behind 10 of his teammates.His defensive real plus-minus — which measures a player’s average impact on his team’s defense by points allowed per 100 possessions — was a minus-0.29, 173rd in the NBA, but 27th among 114 shooting guards
What those stats can’t measure is the fact that Thompson’s unique blend of size and speed allows him to guard a team’s best scorer, whether it’s LeBron James or Russell Westbrook. That allows other players — like Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry — to not expend energy they’d otherwise spend on the offensive side of the court.
Thompson, the 10th different player in franchise history to earn All-Defensive honors (since the award began in 1968-69), held CJ McCollum to just 16-of-38 shooting in the Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, and Damian Lillard to just 8-of-18, after holding him to 4-of-12 during four regular-season games. In 46 playoff possessions guarding the Houston Rockets’ Chris Paul, he held him to 6-of-16 from the floor and 2-of-6 from 3-point range, after holding him to 1-of-6 from the field in 27 possessions during the regular season.
Westbrook, in 32 regular-season possessions against Thompson, shot just 3-of-7. In 28 regular-season possessions guarding James Harden, he held the reigning NBA MVP to just 1-of-4 from the floor, and 0-for-2 from three.
Thompson and Green being named to the All-Defensive team marks the fourth time in franchise history that the team has had multiple All-Defensive selections, and the first time since Green (First Team) and Andrew Bogut (Second Team) were named in 2014-15.
Green posted season averages of 7.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.44 steals and 1.06 blocks in 31.3 minutes over 66 games. Having dropped 20 pounds towards the end of the season, Green has become revitalized in the playoffs, averaging 9.9 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 1.4 steals1.7 blocks and 13.6 points in 37.7 minutes, while shooting 52.1% from the field.
Thompson averaged 21.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.08 steals in 34.0 minutes over 78 games, and was named an All-Star for the fifth straight year this season.
The NBA All-Defensive Teams were selected by a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters, earning two points for each First Team vote, and two points for each Second Team vote. Voters selected two guards, two forwards and one center for each team, choosing players based on the position they play regularly.
Thompson, Green and the Warriors will begin the NBA Finals on May 30, in the city of the Eastern Conference champion. That opponent is still being decided, as the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks are tied 2-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.