Kounting On Klay

June 25

First off, nobody knows for sure. This was one of the weakest NBA drafts in a long time, so it’s hard to predict the future of someone chosen 11th out of such a crop.

I’ll say this much: Washington State’s Klay Thompson was probably the best player available for the Warriors. He was the most NBA-ready player available, one of the best shooters in the draft, with high basketball intelligence and a pedigree.

Does he fill a need for the Warriors? First of all, no team was going to completely fill a need at #11 in a weak draft. There were no immediate answers for the Warriors’ problems with defense and rebounding.

Or, put another way, the players who can rebound and defend weren’t ready to do enough of those things to make much of a difference right away. Thompson is probably ready to at least contribute off the bench, doing what he does, in his rookie season.

The Warriors figured that adding the most talented player, regardless of position, someone who can play — was better than someone with a specific skill who can’t play right away. Stockpiling talent might also pay off down the road in terms of a trade.

Thompson, if ready to contribute, will fill another need: he’ll reduce the workload for Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, assuming another trade isn’t made. If he sticks, it means no more 45-minute games for the starters, allowing them to expend more energy on offense and defense.

Thompson doesn’t help with one-on-one defense but the Warriors think he can aid in team defense with his length. On the other end of the floor, his ability to shoot from range may open things up a bit more for Ellis and Curry to create, but Thompson can also take the ball to the hoop.

In Thompson’s workout with the Knicks, Donnie Walsh compared him to Reggie Miller. If Thompson can approach Miller’s career, the Warriors would take that and run with it — at #11 or #1.

His selection is a sign that Jerry West won the War Room. It was no secret that West liked Thompson, who averaged 22 points a game last year at Washington State and impressed in his workout with the Warriors.

There was also a personal relationship. As Lakers General Manager, West also traded for Klay’s dad, Mychael Thompson in 1987. Mychael made West look good by backing up Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the Lakers won NBA titles in ’87 and ’88. Klay can also commiserate with the son of another former NBA player, Curry.

The Warriors seem to specialize in “tweeners” who can shoot, and are lousy at finding big men who can defend and rebound. Unless you count Jeremy Tyler, the nomad chosen by the Warriors after they purchased the Bobcats’ second-round pick.

Tyler, a phenom in San Diego, skipped his senior year in high school to play in Israel, a short-lived and disastrous stint. Then he played in Japan, where he showed some progress last year under former NBA coach Bob Hill, with the Tokyo Apache.

20 years old now, Tyler said the experience was worth it, as opposed to going to college. He believes he’s learned enough about the game to play in the NBA now. Apparently, the Warriors agreed enough to spend a #39 pick on him.

Tyler is 6-10, 260 pounds with athleticism and length. However, his greatest asset at this point is hopefully some added wisdom. He’s a classic late-draft low risk who, considering the Warriors’ woes in the middle, might be able to help a little.

The Warriors’ second-round pick, Hofstra guard Charles Jenkins, will battle for the backup point guard spot. At 6-3 he improved his shooting percentages and turnover/assist ratio during his four years, becoming a very efficient scorer. But beyond that, he someone you want to root for.

When Jenkins was in the 8th grade, his older brother Kareem was murdered. The tragedy knocked Charles off his feet for a while, but it is also his motivation. While some critics may call Thompson’s motivation into question, there is little doubt with Jenkins.

Are the Warriors on their way to making good on new coach Mark Jackson’s promise of making the playoffs next season ? It’s preposterous to answer that question, based on three players in a draft. There’s still more work to do in free agency and via trade, but I don’t think the Warriors stubbed their toes on Thursday.


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