After the Warriors dealt away their team-leader, leading scorer and one of the top guards in the NBA in Monta Ellis, I was a bit worried as to what would happen at shooting guard and whether or not Klay Thompson could answer the bell.
In three starts since Monta's departure though, Thompson has shined, averaging nearly 20 points per night, 4 boards, 3 assists and a 2 steals. In Friday's highly anticipated matchup, he even outplayed Monta in a lot of aspects, including offensively, even though the Warriors did lose the game. I admit that I was a bit of a critic of the drafting of Thompson, just because the Warriors did have two stud guards already, but now with Monta's trade, it leaves Curry to be the clear-cut point guard, and Thompson can use the final 6 weeks of the season to prove to Mark Jackson that he's the long-term answer at SG. I have to say, for a guy making his first starts, he's first couple career starts, he's looked tremendously polished, and has outplayed his opponent each time out. The one area of his game that is surprisingly lacking though, is his field goal percentage, which was so strong off the bench. Now that he's getting 35-40 minutes per night, he's taking more shots, and he's missing more shots. I expect that to change over time though, and he should emerge as one of the higher percentage shooting guards in the league. He really has reminded me of a young Kevin Martin during this 3-game stretch in which he's taken over the shooting guard, and although he may not be the high-flying athletic talent Monta is, he's a very good basketball player, with good handles, strong passing, good defense and a terrific shot. He's even shown the ability to go to the basket a few times and facilitate for himself and others, which Monta was so good at doing.
Anyway, I'm starting to see why Jerry West was so adamant about the Warriors drafting Thompson, and if he keeps progressing as I believe he will, this deal will turn out a lot better for Golden State. Even though they're pretty strapped as far as the salary cap is concerned, now that they've taken on Bogut and Jefferson and kept Biedrins, but I actually like the team they've put together, and if they can get someone solid with San Antonio's first rounder, than it will even further enhance this squads potential. They really don't need any cap space this summer as they're pretty darn set. They have their center and a very expensive backup. They have their power forward in David Lee, though the loss of Epke Udoh could have the Warriors looking for another big in the draft or cheap young big in free agency. Dominic McGuire has been a pleasant surprise, but they need another big for sure. They have Nate Robinson who will likely re-sign for cheap as he's really carved out a nice niche here and has become a crowd favorite. Brandon Rush has also had one of his best seasons here and will likely want to stick. The addition of Jefferson was key too in my opinion, as he was used sparingly in San Antonio, and needed a change of scenery. I still think the dude can play, and it's evident as he averaged 20 points per game in '08 before joining the Spurs, where he was option number 4 or even sometimes 5 offensively. Much better fit than Stack Jack, as Jefferson is younger, and will either push Dorrell to get his act together this summer or straight up take his spot at 3 next fall! I'm just not convinced this guy all the sudden fell off, he's too good a talent and I think he may end up being a very nice surprise for Warrior fans. Regardless, their potential rotation, with a healthy Bogut and Curry, for 2012-13 is starting to look pretty bright.
As the dust has settled after the flurry of moves, and I've had some time to mull over the deals and where the Warriors stand, I have come to a surprising position. First of, I'll always follow Monta Ellis and appreciate what he did for the Warriors and he'll go down as one of my all-time favorites, but I'm more pleased on Saturday, March 17th (happy St. Patric's Day by the way!), and feel better about this team than I did a week ago when this team seemed to be spinning in it's tracks with no foreseeable impacting change on the horizon. Fact is, without these deal, the Warriors would have had to bank on signing a center, and probably wouldn't have gotten one of Bogut's caliber, and more or less, would have entered next season with much of the same group that they have now. Now, Golden State appears to have a young, legit scoring 2-guard that can apply better defensive match-ups versus the bigger backcourts around the league in Thompson, their longly coveted center and a premiere one at that in Bogut, and are in much better draft position! As long as Bogut and Curry can stay healthy, the Warriors could be very real contenders in the West as soon as next season! I know not all Warrior fans see it this way and some are still bent about losing Monta, but fact of the matter is, the "small backcourt with no center" experiment just wasn't working for the Warriors. The thing that's really made up my mind about this though, again, has been Thompson's emergence. He's supplying Ellis-like scoring at the 2-guard already, and he's still got so much room to grow an improve in just his rookie season!