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Opinion: If Klay Thompson Wants to Walk, Let Him

Klay Thompson
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

If Klay Thompson wants to walk, let him.

I say this all as a fan. The 2016 Golden State Warriors are what got me into basketball, a fact I have no shame about. Living a few hours from the bay, I got hooked on the hype radiating from Oracle. The Splash Bros captured my attention in a way no players had been able to before. The first piece of Warriors merch I ever bought was a dirt cheap Klay Thompson shirt from Target. For years, I argued that Klay didn’t get the praise he deserved, and that he was living in the shadow of Steph Curry. But now, I can only argue that Klay is living in the shadow of his former self. As much as I loathe to say it, he’s slowing down. So, what should the Warriors do? As a fan, what do I want them to do?

Loyalty becomes tricky when a player and a team come to a crossroads. On one hand, I love Klay and what he’s done for the Warriors. Calling him essential to their success almost feels disrespectful, because it undersells his impact. Sadly, his impact is still massive, but in undesirable ways. Klay has become a mystery. Pre-2023, his presence on the floor was never anything except assuring. I didn’t get nervous when he checked into games. This year, however, I found myself apprehensive when he would do so. Which version of Klay are we getting tonight? Is he shooting like it’s 2016, or is he doing his best Jordan Poole impression?

After this season, I have started joking that you never know if you’re going to get 30, 13, or 3 out of the guy. His individual game stats make my joke feel a lot less funny. Klay’s floor is low these days. Some of his worst performances include:

  • 6-18 against the Suns
  • 1-11 against the Mavericks
  • 7-23 against the Bucks
  • 3-13 against the Mavericks
  • 0-10 against the Kings in an elimination game

Sure, he shot 40% from three last year, but that’s an average. He had nearly 30 games in which he shot less than 40% total. This proves my point. What he delivers is unpredictable. It pains me to say that he has become inconsistent to such a degree that I agreed with Steve Kerr’s decision to move him to the bench. Imagine telling myself, or anyone for that matter, the same thing in 2018. Unimaginable, right?

What I want, of course, is for Klay to ride out his career with the Warriors. I’ve been rooting for him for almost a decade. I agonized when he went down against the Raptors and was ecstatic for his return years later. How could someone not cheer for such a likable guy defeating such intense obstacles? How often do you see someone enjoy such success, and all with one team? Kobe Bryant comes to mind, yet even at the height of my delusion, I would never compare the value of the two. My other delusions surrounding Klay Thompson last no longer.

My love for the Golden State Warriors is bigger than one guy. I think Klay Thompson offers immense value to the team as a wise vet, but his performance frankly is unbecoming of a starter, let alone a starter on a team with a still productive Steph Curry. The Warriors might not be their 2010s self anymore, but there is still talent in the bay. Young players like Jonathan Kuminga, Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis give me hope that Golden State can and will continue to be competitive, even after the old guard moves on.

If the Warriors are serious about winning, and think they have more in the tank, they should offer Klay a short term deal at a significant decrease from his current mark. Of course, I would love to see him swallow his pride and take a vet minimum, but that’s pure fantasy and he deserves better. If I’m being realistic, something like 2-3 years/$35-45 million seems like a reasonable offer, given his recent performance. 2 years/$30 million would be the limit of my reality based fantasies. Absolutely no player options should be allowed. Golden State needs to control this contract.

But the Warriors organization and fans like myself need to prepare for an outcome that would see Klay Thompson leave. He is undoubtedly going to generate interest from other teams, and he should. He is, after all, a 4x champ and the second best shooter of all time. What I want, and what I think the Warriors need to do, is stick to their guns. If Klay wants to stay with Golden State, he can do two things: accept his new role, or somehow return to his former self. If he wants to walk, let him. I’d be sad to see him go, but thankful for the memories.

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