How did Klay Thompson rise into NBA’s elite?

After a breakout showing with Team USA, Klay Thompson may be the best shooting guard in the NBA.

      
 

 

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Is Klay Thompson Really the Best 2-Way Shooting Guard in the NBA?

With a three-point rocket in his arsenal and the defensive versatility to slide anywhere along the perimeter, Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson is among the top two-way players at his position.

For Thompson’s agent, Bill Duffy, that distinction isn’t enough. Duffy, who has until October 31 to negotiate a contract extension for the fourth-year sniper, said his client needs no qualifier.

Thompson, as Duffy told USA Today‘s Sam Amick, is the NBA‘s premier two-way player at his position:

 don’t want (Los Angeles Lakers star) Kobe Bryant to go crazy, but there’s some uncertainty as to who he is right now (because of injuries that limited him to six games last season). But I think Klay Thompson right now is the top two-way, two-guard in basketball. I think when you look at his body of work, when you look at what he accomplished guarding point guards on a regular basis (last season), I think it’s pretty clear.

Duffy’s comments capture a number of different sentiments, not the least of which is the incredible wave the former Washington State star has been riding of late.

Thompson’s stock is soaring.

During the 2013-14 campaign, the 24-year-old posted personal bests in points (18.4), field-goal percentage (44.4) and three-point percentage (41.7). He also pushed his career three-point total to 545, 54 more than any other player has converted during their first three seasons in the league (Kyle Korver ranks second on that list with 491).

According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Warriors’ unwillingness to unload Thompson played a major part in their trade talks for perennial All-Star Kevin Love falling apart this summer. While other factors went into that decision, Thompson’s defensive ability was hardly lost on his employer.

“Klay guarded Chris Paul the entire Clippers series,” first-year Warriors coach Steve Kerr told Amick in July. “He has allowed [Stephen Curry] to conserve some energy at the defensive end, and to slide over to a shooter.”

After the trade winds subsided around Thompson, he raised his profile again during Team USA’s gold-medal sprint through the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He ranked second on the team in scoring (12.7), but his play at the opposite side may have opened even more eyes.

“Everyone had talked about his offense, but he has been consistently excellent on the defensive end,” Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters. “The fact that he’s tall, he’s been able to play defense on the one, two, and three. He’s become our most versatile defender.”

In other words, Duffy was doing more than negotiating when he sang his client’s praises. Thompson’s talent does extend to both sides of the floor.

But is he really the league’s best two-way shooting guard? The numbers don’t exactly see him as such—and that’s putting it kindly.

There are different ways to measure a player’s two-way impact, none of which shine the most favorable light on Thompson.

One method is ESPN.com’s real plus-minus metric, which the website notes measures a “player’s estimated on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. RPM takes into account teammates, opponents and additional factors.”

Thompson’s real plus-minus number is plus-2.03, which checks in at No. 11 among all shooting guards. While weighing his statistics among the other top 30 players at the position, he doesn’t grade out as elite at either end of the floor.

Thompson ranks fairly well at the offensive end (ninth overall), but fairly well shouldn’t describe anything the top two-way shooting guard does. As for his defense, well, this metric actually puts him in the bottom half of his position (17th).

Of course, those aren’t the only numbers available to us.

We also have PER, which former ESPN.com columnist and current Memphis Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger said, “sums up all a player’s positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player’s performance,” via Basketball-Reference.com.

The website 82games.com also tracks the PER allowed by each player. Subtract a player’s PER allowed from the PER they produce and you get…an even lower rating for Thompson (plus-1.9, 15th overall).

Altogether, these two measures rank six players ahead of Thompson in both: Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs), Vince Carter (Grizzlies), Danny Green (Spurs), Goran Dragic (Phoenix Suns), James Harden (Houston Rockets) and Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls). Despite ESPN’s inclusion of Dragic at the shooting guard spot, he’ll fall out of our consideration since he spent more time at the 1 (52 percent of his minutes) than the 2 (47 percent).

So, what exactly does this all mean?

For one, none of us should have been surprised by the Spurs’ title run last season. They had two of the top two-way forces at the shooting guard position, neither of whom ranked among the team’s top three in either field-goal attempts or points per game.

Getting back on track, it means that Duffy’s claim isn’t easy to buy. But it’s not impossible, either.

A lot of it depends on your definition of a two-way player.

These measures weigh a player’s offensive production against what they give back at the opposite side. That can allow a player with supreme one-way talent to shine despite having some serious drawbacks at the opposite end (see: James Harden, “Defensive Juggernaut”).

If two-way player means someone who excels on both sides of the ball, the discussion changes. Then it becomes harder to overlook Harden’s defensive ineptitude or the offensive limitations of Butler (career 8.9 points per game) and Green (8.8).

As for the other two players still standing (Carter and Ginobili), it’s tough to ignore the fact that Father Time is closing in on the 37-year-olds. Ginobili had an effective, efficient 2013-14 season, but he missed 14 games and logged only 22.8 minutes a night when he played. Carter played all but one contest, but he saw just 24.4 minutes of floor time each game.

Thompson, meanwhile, averaged 35.4 minutes across his 81 games. And he carried heavier loads at both ends of the floor than either of the aging shooting guards.

That’s why this conversation can’t be based off statistics alone. These numbers need context.

It’s impossible to weigh these defensive numbers side by side when they weren’t compiled against the same caliber of player. Thompson took on the Warriors’ toughest backcourt assignment on a nightly basis, chasing track-star point guards one game and holding court with bigger, stronger shooting guards the next.

According to one former Warriors assistant, Thompson even outperformed teammate Andre Iguodala, who captured All-Defensive first-team honors last season.

“Klay is a much better defender,” the coach told Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher. “It’s not even close. It’s all based on reputation and stats.”

Thompson is, without a doubt, among the league’s best two-way shooting guards.

However, for the first time in a long time, the position’s top seat is empty. There is a changing of the guard going on—Kobe Bryant is 36 years old and coming off a six-game season, Dwyane Wade is 32 and has missed 58 games the last three years—but that process isn’t complete.

And Thompson isn’t the only one aiming for that throne.

“Throw Bradley Beal, Lance Stephenson and Jimmy Butler into the conversation with Thompson, DeRozan and Harden, and it should be a fun battle for Bryant’s shooting guard torch in the 25-and-under crowd,” wrote Yahoo Sports’ Ben Rohrbach. “But there’s no obvious heir apparent.”

Thompson has the talent to ascend the shooting guard ranks, but he isn’t there yet. No one is.

For now, Duffy will have to take solace in the fact that he represents one of the finest two-way 2-guards in the business. As long as his words help his client net max-contract money, then the agent will have his done his job.

Then the hard work will begin—Thompson living up to his agent’s claim.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Klay Thompson ‘excited to work with’ Steve Kerr

Klay Thompson’s rise through Team USA could translate to the NBA. He spoke with USA TODAY Sports.

      
 

 

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Is Klay Thompson truly in NBA elite?

After a breakout showing with Team USA, Klay Thompson may be the best shooting guard in the NBA.

      
 

 

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Has Klay Thompson joined NBA’s elite?

After a breakout showing with Team USA, Klay Thompson may be the best shooting guard in the NBA.

      
 

 

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How Should the Warriors Handle Klay Thompson Conundrum?

The Golden State Warriors will be in a bit of a predicament with respect to Klay Thompson’s extension.

He’s a solid 2-guard who makes it rain from long range, and he’s morphed into the Warriors’ best perimeter defender. An argument could be made that he is the best two-way guard in basketball.

In addition, Thompson will only be 24 years old when the season tips off, and he established himself as one of Team USA’s best players during the FIBA World Cup.

Thompson’s always been able to shoot the ball, as evidenced by his career 41 percent mark from downtown, and he’s showed some growth during international play. The sharpshooter is putting the ball on the floor and finishing in traffic, which has never really been his forte.

By adding this layer to his game, Thompson could very well become the league’s premier 2-guard. As much as the Golden State front office will appreciate this development, it has to scare them a little given what it means going forward.

Dollar signs for Thompson.

USA Today’s Sam Amick offered this nugget in August:

Meanwhile, Thompson’s agent, Bill Duffy, has been seeking a max deal in extension talks with the Warriors as well. And while Golden State would surely prefer that the stance eventually softens and leads to a more palatable deal, the fact that he is younger means a max for Thompson would start at $15.7 million and still allow for more flexibility in the Warriors future than a [Kevin] Love deal.

It’s one thing for Thompson to seek a max extension, but should the Warriors oblige?

Theoretically, they could play hardball and try to sign him for roughly four years at $9 million annually. However, that seems unlikely.

As Amick mentioned, a max deal for Thompson presents a lower figure than Love. During the offseason, the Warriors had discussed a swap involving Love prior to the Minnesota Timberwolves trading him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The framework of the transaction centered around David Lee, Thompson, Love and Kevin Martin, per Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears. However, members of the Warriors front office were split on whether to part with Thompson, according to a report by Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne posted over at ESPN LA.

Ultimately, Golden State held firm and kept Thompson because he better suited the defensive culture of the franchise. Amick added:

Their recent refusal to include guard and Timberwolves target Klay Thompson in the deal is rooted in this reality. Losing Thompson not only would leave [Stephen] Curry overexposed defensively in the backcourt but also is compounded by the fact that Love — much like incumbent power forward David Lee, who would head to Minnesota if this deal got done — isn’t exactly known as a two-way player. 

The Warriors valued Thompson enough to pass on arguably the best power forward in the league. Golden State essentially said Thompson was more important to them than Love, who happens to be a max-level player.

I’m not sure the Dubs have any leverage at all here. Curry, the team’s best player, needs Thompson around to take on his assignments, and the offense seems smoother with Thompson on the floor because he stretches defenses thin.

Thus, Golden State will drop suitcases of cash on him without question, right? Well, not quite.

The Warriors have until October 31 to agree to an extension that would kick in for the 2015-16 campaign. If all the player and team options are exercised, Golden State would likely exceed the luxury tax line based on Sham Sports’ salary data.

The tax line is $76.8 million for the 2014-15 season, and the Dubs probably exceed it with the extension. Being a tax team means it becomes harder to add players because there are less salary exceptions available and harsher tax penalties on every amount owed to a Warrior.

It’s not ideal, but Golden State can probably manage for a year or two under these conditions. It’s worth mentioning, his teammates might have a small problem with it.

In the event management signed Thompson to a max deal, he would become the highest-paid Warrior.

Let that sink in for a second.

Thompson would earn more than Curry and Andrew Bogut. One could rationalize on some level that Thompson brings more to the table than Bogut, but it’s not exactly an open-and-shut case. Thompson is younger, healthier and more offensive-minded.

On the flip side, these Warriors haven’t been out of the first round sans Bogut.

As it pertains to Curry, he signed his current deal while dealing with lingering ankle issues during the 2011-12 season, which explains why he will “only” make $11.4 million during the 2015-16 campaign.

With that said, Thompson can’t make more than Curry. It could create a situation where the team’s best player feels undervalued and, worse yet, disrespected (also applies on some level to Bogut).

What other options do the Dubs have?

Bad ones.

Instead of signing Thompson to an extension, Golden State could allow him to play out his contract and then extend a qualifying offer in the 2015 offseason. He would become a restricted free agent, which gives the Warriors the right to match whatever contract offer Thompson signs with another team.

On the surface, this seems advantageous. But the issues previously outlined with respect to player salaries would take effect. Chemistry might suffer, which means the team would take a step backward.

Worse yet, Thompson might want out due to Golden State’s refusal to settle the situation early. That could prompt Thompson to sign a one-year qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent the following year (a la Greg Monroe of the Detroit Pistons). Once the 2-guard hits free agency, he can go to any team of his choosing.

Yikes!

The other alternative is simply to trade Thompson, which seems unlikely. By dealing him, maybe Golden State receives a young, promising player or a first-round pick in return.

Such a transaction would shake the foundation given that the franchise would be turning its back on the culture it’s created in the last few seasons. Keep in mind, the Warriors would be getting rid of a productive 24-year-old 2-guard.

It bears repeating that management chose him over Love, which means they can’t just ship him away now, as CBS Sports’ Zach Harper noted.

Decisions, decisions.

Golden State is lucky enough that Thompson loves his surroundings. When the San Jose Mercury News’ Marcus Thompson II pressed him on the fact he wasn’t traded for Love, the sniper offered:

The Warriors believe in me. That makes me want to work that much harder. They believe in me and Steph, they believe in the team we have. I believe in us, too. I think we have all the ingredients to win a championship.

Maybe that appreciation for not being dealt, and the fact the team has an intriguing roster, gets Thompson to back off from his initial asking price. If the Dubs can get him at about $11 million per year, they will have won the negotiation.

However, if Thompson is resolute in his demand, the Warriors will have to acquiesce. I realize that the extension comes with landmines, but ultimately, the team cannot let him walk.

A long-term commitment here becomes a loaded proposition, though. Curry and Bogut’s deals expire at the conclusion of the 2016-17 seasons, but the Warriors should immediately set their sights on discussing their next contracts once they’ve obtained Thompson’s signature.

Thus, whatever negative impact Thompson’s new contract will have, it will be mitigated by the front office’s ability to immediately discuss future compensation with its top players. It’s the best option available for the Dubs, and it’s the route the organization needs to take.

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Will Steph Curry or Klay Thompson Benefit More from Team USA Experience?

Just about every player on Team USA’s roster in the FIBA World Cup stands to benefit from being there. 

The experience of playing next to other elite talents and working with world-class coaches can only really be viewed as beneficial as these players prepare for the NBA season.

Golden State Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are certainly no exception. They’ve been a big part of what Team USA has done in this setting, earning lots of minutes and providing valuable perimeter scoring.

Here’s Jim Cavan of Bleacher Report:

Of all the NBA teams that could use one more mini-leap from their two best players to launch themselves squarely into the championship conversation, the Golden State Warriors—with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson—fit the bill best.

Luckily for them, the two will have three full weeks of FIBA Basketball World Cup experience at their backs heading into training camp.

Even though the Splash Brothers will both benefit from all the time invested this offseason, only one player really needed this experience.

Curry is already an established star in the league, and you have to understand how difficult this offseason must have been for his backcourt partner.

Until Kevin Love was finally dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thompson was under constant scrutiny. Should the Warriors be willing to deal him? Was he worth sacrificing for Love? Will he demand too much money in the offseason? Is he overrated?

Basically, the focus and narrative was on how Thompson wasn’t worth the value Golden State had placed on him. That’s tough.

But with strong performances in Spain, Thompson has been able to get back to basketball and show the world why he’s one of the best young shooting guards in the game. 

Here’s what Thompson told Bay Area News Group’s Marcus Thompson II:

In year four, I’m looking to take a huge leap like I did last year. …

… If you want to be a championship player, you have to play both ends. We’ve got some great players in this league who are two-way players.Kobe Bryant. LeBron. Paul GeorgeKawhi Leonard. I’d love to be known as a guy who gets you 20 points and locks down the best offensive player.

Thompson has displayed a lot of those abilities on both sides of the ball, and that’s what makes him maybe even more valuable to the Warriors than he would be for other teams around the league.

Here’s Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report:

But Thompson is still Bay Area-based for a reason. For this franchise, and more importantly for its face, his value is hard to overstate.

As an offensive safety valve and defensive protection, Thompson makes life easier for Curry. The Warriors’ road to relevance starts with their superstar floor general, so anything that improves his effectiveness makes Golden State’s championship chances that much stronger.

It’s been critical for Thompson to assert himself on a team that certainly isn’t hard up for scoring. Thompson has been aggressive when looking for his own shot, showing no hesitation and letting his pretty jumper fly.

The confidence gained from quality performances playing against and with the world’s best players can’t be duplicated elsewhere. No matter how many jumpers Thompson hit in the gym on his own this offseason, it wouldn’t compare.

Curry also understands the value of this experience. 

In an interview with LetsGoWarriors.com’s‘ Ryan Brown, Curry had this to say:

Really it’s nothing specific, when you are around great talent great minds you are going to get better just by surrounding yourself with those kinds of people. There are so many great minds and basketball IQ’s that you are going to become a better player and a better presence by being here. Everyone is going to get better in some shape or form and they can tell you better once we get back what it exactly was.

Again, Curry should improve from this experience as well. He’s still young, and he still has a higher level to hit, as scary as that is to imagine.

But Thompson is seemingly further away from his ceiling. As of right now, he’s essentially a three-and-D guy with a little bit of a post game. What’s to separate Thompson from, say, Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews? 

Entering a potential contract year, Thompson has to show he can do more than just satisfy a particular role, even if he does it wonderfully. He’ll have to score much more efficiently at the rim, he’ll have to create for himself and he’ll need to rebound.

There’s just more room for growth with Thompson than there is with Curry, and Thompson’s experience in the FIBA World Cup couldn’t have come at a better time. 

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Klay Thompson Finds Anthony Davis for One-Handed Alley Oop vs. Turkey

After a close first three quarters, the United States began to pull away from Turkey in their FIBA World Cup matchup on Sunday in the fourth quarter thanks to some impressive plays.

With around seven minutes left to play, Klay Thompson found Anthony Davis for the impressive one-handed alley-oop.

The U.S. won going away, 98-77.

[Vine]

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Team USA’s Klay Thompson Breaks Down the Skills That Make Him a Shooting Star

After a spirited practice at the United States Military Academy at West Point last week, Warriors sharp-shooter Klay Thompson had enough energy to break down a player far less crucial to Team USA’s hopes in Spain—mine.   

“I see you,” Thompson said in assessing this writer’s shooting form. “That’s not bad.” Still, the Warriors sharp-shooter suggested I begin my set-up a bit higher for a quicker release. Coming from one of the best shooters on the planet, I gladly listened to his advice.

Last weekend, Thompson received validation of his own game when he became one of only 12 American players in the NBA to be named to Team USA’s official roster for the FIBA World Cup, which starts on Aug. 23. In an international field of play that caters to long-distance marksmen, Thompson should be a hot hand in Spain.  

The 24-year-old guard is the portrait for the modern-day shooter. He owns the record for most three-pointers made over the course of a player’s first three seasons (545). In 2013-14, while averaging 18.4 points per game with an improved mid-range and off-the-dribble game, he shot 41.7 percent from downtown and hit 223 threes—only second to his backcourt sidekick and Team USA teammate Stephen Curry (261).

While at West Point, Thompson spoke with B/R about the tools and tricks needed to get to his level of expertise. Below are 12 shooting keys gleaned from our conversation, presented here in a first-person perspective and edited for clarity and length.

 

1. It all starts with the same pregame routine.

First, I need to make five shots from five different spots in the mid-range area. Then, I need to make three spot-up three-pointers, three transition three-pointers and one three from five spots around the arc. After that, I do a couple of pin-downs from each side and then I’ve got to make three in a row from each baseline corner. I start at the top and run to the corner. I’ve got to make six total.

I created the routine and took some things from the Warriors’ coaching staff. I used to shoot a lot more before the game, and then I went through a shooting slump last season in January. Former assistant coach Lindsey Hunter told me to cut my routine down, saying, “Don’t leave your game on the floor.” So I cut my routine in half and my shooting percentage went up in the following months. It used to be 30, 40 minutes. Now it’s 15, 20 minutes.

I don’t adjust my routine to the opponent. I try to make the defense adjust to me, rather than adjust to them. But some teams are so different defensively, like the Bulls and Grizzlies, that you’re not going to get a lot of easy touches in the paint or off the curl, so you’ve really got to work for everything you get.

I’m still open to new ideas. This Team USA experience has given me a chance to see what everyone does pregame. I saw Derrick Rose closing his eyes and controlling his breathing. He was visualizing the game. It’s been cool to see how he approaches the game and be on the floor with him, because he was once an MVP.

 

2. The key to moving without the ball and using screens is changing speeds.

I watch guys like Steph Curry, Reggie Miller and Kyle Korver. All of them are really good at lulling their guys to sleep and then sprinting off a pin-down. When you do that you either lose your defender or he’s trailing you hard and you can throw a pump fake, and he goes around you.

I’ve learned to stop, walk my defender into a screen and spin off real quick. It’s a lot about changing speeds, keeping your hands ready and staying active. I tried to pick up a lot of stuff from Kyle, who I shot with a lot with Team USA. He’s great at moving without the ball.

 

3. Reading screens is a feel thing with your defender and point guard.

I don’t predetermine whether I’m going to curl off the screen or if I’m going to flare off it. I just feel it. And I don’t really look at my defender’s feet or where he is. That’s a feel thing, too. It’s more about my personal footwork, coming off screens. If my defender is going to cheat and go over the top, I’m going to plant my foot and step back one or two feet. I also try to use my height. I’m 6’7″ and it’s tough to block my shot. It only takes me about a second to get a good look.

You’ve also got to develop chemistry with your point guard, because he’s got to read if you’re flaring off the screen or if you’re curling. Steph and I are getting good at that. We’ve played three years together now. He knows where I like the ball—on the right side of my body, right beneath my shoulder. And because he’s such a great passer, he’ll give it to me there every time.

We both think we have a lot of room to grow. I’ve never played with someone who shoots better than me, so he pushes me. Hopefully we can break some more shooting records if we just stay humble and stay together.

 

4. Sometimes you need to play a little physical with your defender to break free.

I try to get his hands off of me. It might be a foul, but you can always give a defender a little shove just to get one or two feet of space. That’s all you really need. If he’s trailing me and has to run around the screen, he’s not going to be able to get to my shot.

 

5. Long swingmen defenders are typically the toughest matchups for mobile shooters.

It used to be Andre Iguodala, but we’ve been on the same team since last year. He’s good for me in practice because he wants to guard me. Matt Barnes is pretty good at fighting through screens because he’s long. Paul George is good at it, too. Someone who’s not as tall, but is a great defender, is Tony Allen. He’s good at avoiding screens and getting back on defense.

 

6. Many half-court sets are designed for great shooters, especially because their running off screens can put an entire defense on alert.

I can’t give away all the plays, but Coach Steve Kerr has told me he’s going to implement a lot for me and Steph moving off the ball. We have a simple floppy action everyone knows. It’s just a single screen or a double screen on one side. I start under the basket and go out either way.

Sometimes we’ll audible plays. It’s not like football where you have multiple calls. If a team is going to top block me, we have a call for it and I’ll just run off the other side, moving off a screen set by the big man on the other block. Sometimes Andrew Bogut is on the weak-side block and David Lee is on the strong side at the free throw corner. Depending how the defense is playing me, I can either move off D-Lee or Bogut.

They’re both really good at setting screens, which is a bit of a lost art. A lot of times you see offensive calls where the rhythm isn’t right.

To make it work we’ve got to be patient and wait for the screen, like dribbling our guy off the big man. Old point guards like John Stockton or Mark Jackson or Magic Johnson were good at backing their man in, using the big man and then going off the screen.

 

7. Some players can get away with not being in top shape; not shooting guards.

The best shooters are in great shape, whether it’s Steph, Ray Allen or Kyle Korver. Those guys don’t stop moving. In the fourth quarter, especially, the game slows down a lot. You can’t get as many transition looks, so you’ve got to be in amazing shape.

That’s why during the season, I get a lot of reps on the elliptical machine that makes you use your arms. Sometimes late in the game when you’ve got a good rhythm, you do shoot with your arms. But you can make shots like that. It’s a lot of push-ups, a lot of pull-ups, a lot of repetition shooting. During the summer, I probably do like an hour, hour-and-a-half of shooting every day. I don’t necessarily want to get bulkier, but be in great shape.

It’s also important for me to run a couple miles every day in the offseason. And when I do my practice shooting, I try to get a lot of shots on the move because those are what I’m going to get most in the game. I’m always going to be able to stand still and shoot, but the great shooters can sprint into shots and they can back-pedal into shots.

 

 

8. Speaking of back pedaling into shots …

Those are the toughest shots in the NBA—to back pedal, and then set your feet and get your balance, especially in the corner, like the shot Ray Allen hit in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. People think that’s an easy corner shot, but no—it’s momentum going all the way back, and then you’ve got to collect yourself and go straight up and shoot it. When I shoot, I try to plant my heels because that’s when I get my balance, and then I just explode through my toes.

My college coach Tony Bennett once told me my freshman year that when I shoot, envision water going from my toes to my fingertips in one fluid motion. All the great shooters’ shots are like a reverse waterfall—Steph, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyle Korver. They’ve all got one fluid motion—no real hitches in their shots.

I’ve always had good footwork and balance, and good feet coming off screens. I think that’s from playing multiple spots every year when I was younger, whether it was football or baseball. It all carried over. And I had a gift with the quick release. Once I grew into my body in high school, I was able to come off to an NBA three. That’s a tough shot, curling into an NBA three. Not a lot of guys can do that.

 

9. Certain non-basketball sports are helpful for improving accuracy and conditioning.

I try to do other activities to stay in shape, whether it’s tennis or golf, where I walk 18 holes. It’s exhausting. A lot of shooters are really good at golf, Ping-Pong, pool or sports like that. It helps your mental toughness because you’re going to hit bad shots.

My golf game has improved. I’m breaking 100, so I’ll take it. I play with Steph and he’s the best I’ve played with so far.

My favorite is Ping-Pong; I’ve always loved that. Paintball is fun, too. I also like to swim a lot. I love the ocean and I’ve heard it’s good for your joints. Tim Duncan swims and that guy is still playing at age 38.

 

10. While he wasn’t the most athletic, Chris Mullin is the one player every shooter should study.

Growing up, I watched Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton and Allan Houston, but there was always something special about Chris Mullin. He wasn’t athletic, but he knew how to get to his spot and he never let the defense speed him up. He made the game look so simple.

He wasn’t flashy. He just had his compact, smooth jumper, and he was one of the smartest players in the game. To average 25 a game and be slow and not athletic is an unbelievable testament to his skill and his work ethic. When he was with Golden State, he helped me a lot. He told me to get my center of gravity lower to help me explode on my shot.

 

11. Being off-balance is usually the main reason for missing jumpers.

I can tell right away why I missed. With me, it’s usually my balance, where I’m leaning to one side too much. At the start of the game, I try to get my feet set, get my balance right. But if I’m hot in the game, I’ll make those shots in the flow.

During the game, I try not to think about a miss, but you try to get an easy one, whether it’s curling to the rim or getting to the free throw line. As a shooter, once you see that ball go in once, that’s all you need. You feel like you’ve got your rhythm back.

After the game, I study film. I’ll watch it with an assistant coach, the head coach, a player—it doesn’t matter. I just like someone there to give me feedback. Sometimes you’re going to have a bad night. That’s going to happen in the NBA and you just have to accept it.

For me, shot selection is crucial, too. If I’m taking good shots, I’m shooting a high percentage. If I’m rushing my shot, taking a contested three or mid-range shot, it’s a low-percentage shot. My shot selection has gotten better each year.

 

12. The next phase for me means diversifying my scoring opportunities.

I realize how hard defenses run at me, so I’ve got to master the pump fake to draw more fouls. I saw that with Chandler Parsons on Team USA. He’s got a great pump fake and can get guys off their feet.

Once you get to your spot off the dribble, you can get defenders off balance with a quick pump fake or you can jump into them. I’ve gotten better at that, especially from the three-point line. Guys know most of the time I’m going to shoot, so I just need to give a good pump fake to get in the lane.

I’ve also been working on my floater. Steph shoots floaters and finger rolls that I’ve never seen before, so I try to watch him. His finger-roll game is crazy. I’m also getting better in the post. Coming out of college, I felt like I was ready as far as moving without the ball, and catching and shooting. But when I got to the NBA, it was getting in the lane, shooting little jumpers and finding that little pocket pass. That’s what I really had to develop, and still need to, in my career.

 

Jared Zwerling covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Klay Thompson Ends 1st Half Against Puerto Rico with Buzzer-Beating 3-Pointer

The first half of Friday night’s exhibition game between the United States and Puerto Rico was closer than expected, but thanks to Klay Thompson, Team USA had some breathing room at the break.

With the United States leading by just two points, Thompson drilled a buzzer-beating three-pointer on the run to extend the lead to 52-47.

[Twitter, USA Basketball]

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