The Warriors brain trust, especially coach Mark Jackson, has raved about swingman Klay Thompson since training camp. The rookie has done nothing but warrant more praise from his bosses.
The greatest endorsement came Tuesday in the form of a trade -- the team shipping out Monta Ellis and anointing Thompson the shooting guard of the future.
"I'm not trying to replace Monta's production," Thompson said. "I know I can't just step in the NBA and expect to put up numbers like that, so it's going to take some time."
Thompson, so far, has shown he's right. In four starts since the trade, he's averaged 19 points on 39.7 percent shooting (including 8 of 25 from 3-point range).
The Warriors no doubt will expect more efficient scoring from Thompson as he develops, but it isn't just his scoring -- or his to-die-for jumper -- that has Golden State management feeling like it nabbed a top-five caliber player when it drafted Thompson No. 11 overall last June.
It's his jumper. It's his size (6-foot-7, 205 pounds) and length. It's his underrated defensive skills. Add maturity and poise on the court. Perhaps what Thompson was lacking more than anything was game experience. Now, he's getting that, averaging better than 39 minutes the last four games.
Thompson already has shown his shooting prowess. He currently ranks 10th in the league in 3-point percentage (43.7), which is tops among rookies. Lately, he's shown an increased ability to score in motion. He's gotten pretty good at moving without the ball and finishing -- especially the catch-and-shoot midrange jumpers. And he's unveiled his off-the-dribble game of late.
One area of noted growth for Thompson is his ability to get to the free throw line, progress that was evident before Ellis was traded. Thompson has taken 26 free throws the last six games (making 23). In his first 36 NBA games, Thompson totaled 15 free throws, including a stretch of 19 games without an attempt.
The next step for Thompson, in addition to enhancing his current skills, is to develop his ability to create shots for others. With the Warriors pointing toward next year, the remainder of this season is especially important for Thompson. He could wind up being the youngest in the starting lineup next season, but the Warriors still will need his production. To that end, Thompson said he is working on adding to his repertoire.
"I have to do that if I want to stay out on the floor and keep defenses honest," Thompson said. "If I want to be successful, I have to add more to my game for this team to keep going."
Several Warriors' notables are expected to be in attendance: Don Nelson, Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Rod Higgins, Sarunas Marciulionis and Tom Tolbert. Tickets are still available. For more information, go to Warriors.com.