Golden State Warriors fans were heated following the team’s 124-123 loss to the Sacramento Kings in their final In-Season Tournament game. While a one-point loss on the road to a strong team isn’t usually cause for an uproar, how the Warriors found themselves on the losing side was particularly painful and had fans launching a campaign against Klay Thompson in favor of Moses Moody.
Warriors social media reaction to Klay Thompson
Why fans were irate over Steve Kerr's decision to ride with Klay Thompson instead of Moses Moody
Steve Kerr’s decision to close the game with Thompson over Moody was particularly grating to fans because of the way the Warriors lost the game. They had built a 24-point lead late in the second quarter and entered half-time with a 17-point lead. Due to tie-breakers, they needed to win the game by 12 or more points to advance to the knockout round but saw their lead slowly dwindle. The Warriors were put into their misery when Malik Monk hit a circus shot with seconds left to give the Kings a one-point edge.
Not only does the loss count in the standings, where the Warriors need all the help they can get, but they had a clear path to make the knockout round, and Moses Moody was shaping up to be the hero of the game — until he wasn’t.
Moody played all of 13:05 minutes in the contest but made them count. He went 4-of-4 from the field and 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, hitting all of his shots in the fourth quarter. As the Warriors’ lead diminished, the third-year wing kept their heads above water, hitting a slew of big 3s.
With 5:06 minutes left in the game, the Kings took their first lead since the first quarter when Sasha Vezenkov's 3 put them up 114-113. Thanks to Moody, that lead lasted all of 11 seconds as he responded right back with a 3 over Vezenkov. However, Moody’s heroics weren’t enough to keep him on the court, as Kerr abruptly subbed him out 30 seconds later for Andrew Wiggins, never to be seen again.
Wiggins had been exceptional for the Warriors, finishing with 29 points on 18 shots, and he made big play after big play after reentering the game in the fourth, putting them up five with under 30 seconds left. However, Klay Thompson, whom Kerr kept on the court instead of Moody, was nowhere to be found when it mattered most.
Thompson had a solid night, scoring 20 points on 14 shots, but was a ghost in the fourth quarter, taking one 3, which he missed. If Kerr had ridden the hot hand and replaced Thompson for Wiggins, the Warriors could have very well escaped Sacramento with a victory, even if it meant failing to advance in the In-Season Tournament. Moody and Wiggins, at this point, are better defenders than Thompson, and if he’s not taking and making 3s, he provides little on-court value.
Klay Thompson isn't toast, and Steve Kerr knows it
While some fans believe Kerr is protecting Thompson’s ego, it’s more likely he is trying to get him going. The Warriors can’t reach their ceiling without Thompson firing on all cylinders from deep, and it appears that he has been the recipient of bad luck to start the season.
On wide-open 3s, Thompson is shooting 46.4 percent, almost identical to last season’s 46.6 percent, and on contested 3s, he’s hitting 53.1 percent, compared to 34.8 percent last season, but he has seen a massive drop off in his efficiency on open 3s this season, going from 42.3 percent last season to 24.5 percent this year. He’s also only hitting 26.3 percent of his corner 3s but sports a 44.5 percent career average on the shot.
Much of Thompson’s struggles on the long ball are down to his uncharacteristically poor shooting on two of the easiest 3-pointers, open attempts and corner 3s. While Moody is a much better option than Thompson when he’s hot, and Thompson is slumping, the gulf between an average-shooting Klay Thompson and a hot-shooting Moody is still the length of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Kerr, much to the chagrin of fans who want to win every game, understands that the NBA regular season is a marathon, and you have to play the percentages. He knows Thompson will start hitting his open looks, and he needs to give him that chance. If Moody continues to play at this level, then the Warriors will have more optionality as the season goes on.
Klay Thompson’s days as a lethal 3-and-D wing are long gone, but they’ve been gone for the past few seasons. His defense is not what it once was, but his shooting is as good as ever. Fans seemingly have forgotten that he is coming off a campaign where he shot 41.2 percent from 3 on 7.6 attempts per game, and that was despite him shooting 33 percent over his first 12 games.
Moody has earned more minutes, and Thompson probably deserves a few less, but that doesn’t mean the two should see their roles reversed. One is one of the greatest shooters ever, and even when he’s ‘struggling’ from 3, he’s still hitting them at an above-league-average rate. Amid the Warriors’ struggles, there is still a very dangerous team lurking beneath the surface. Replacing Klay Thompson won’t sharpen the blade of a champion. It’ll just dull it.