When then-Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson dubbed Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson the greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history three years ago, his proclamation was met by many with rolled eyes.
Three years later, Jackson, now an analyst for ESPN, looks more prophet than biased wishful thinker.
Curry and Thompson led Golden State to its first NBA championship in 40 years a season ago, and the Splash Brothers have the Warriors standing just eight victories away from repeating as champions.
While Curry has garnered back-to-back MVP awards and become the face of the NBA, Thompson has quietly but steadily grown from a streaky and sometimes hesitant shooter to a two-way standout capable of shutting down the opposition's top scorers while developing into a clutch long-range shooting specialist capable of reaching a level of did-you-see-that incredible typically reserved for Curry.
Thompson, the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, has improved his scoring average in each of his first five seasons, including a career-best 22.1 points per game in 2015-16.
Thompson's average of 3.5 made three-pointers per contest during the regular season ranked second in the NBA to Curry's 5.1 and represented another career best.
The two-time All-Star and 2016 NBA Three-Point Contest champion has upped the ante during the postseason, averaging 27.2 points while topping the 30-point mark in four of the Warriors' 10 playoff games, including a career playoff-best 37 points in Golden State’s 118-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in their first-round NBA Western Conference playoff series opener on May 1.
With Curry hobbled by ankle and knee injuries, Thompson has stepped up his three-point game, knocking down an average of 4.7 three-balls per contest, including at least 5 threes in Golden State's last seven postseason games. During his current long-range frenzy, Thompson became the first player in NBA history to hit seven three-pointers in three straight playoff games.
In the Warriors’ series-clinching 125-121 Game 5 victory over the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday night, Thompson led all scorers with 33 points on 13-for-17 shooting, including 6 of 9 from beyond the arc.
As valuable as his contributions have been on offense, Thompson’s tireless work at the defensive end could be just as impressive.
From effectively shutting down Houston Rockets scoring machine James Harden in the opening round of the playoffs, to being charged with keeping Portland star Damian Lillard within range of the Earth's gravitational pull in the conferences semifinals, Thompson has been here, there and everywhere the Warriors’ have needed him to be.
Curry sang Thompson’s praises after his fellow All-Star’s overall performance in the Warriors’ Game 5 win against Portland.
“I just have to say something about Klay Thompson. That dude had probably the best series he’s ever had. Chasing Dame (Lillard) all over the court and exhausting all his energy and scoring the way he did. I hope that doesn't get lost. I just had to say that.”
Compiled by Stu Rosenberg