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Golden State Warriors Klay Thompson has been a difference maker, despite silly pre-draft history

You knew this was coming . . .

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Years ago the Utah Jazz had two lottery picks in the same 2011 NBA Draft. They had the #3 pick, and they had the #12 pick. They would eventually select Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. But before that day an intrepid blogger / fan / manager / weirdo had a different set of players selected for the Jazz. No, these were not the picks he wanted, but if things fell within a specific order, these were the two guys he felt that the Jazz would take. At #3 the Jazz should have taken Brandon Knight. And at #12 . . . Klay Thompson. That full post can be found over here, if you are interested in going back in time. Today Kanter isn't even with the team and Burks is coming off the bench behind a shooting guard drilling barely 30% of his threes (Rodney Hood). The other two guys?

Brandon Knight is a starter for the Phoenix Suns who is averaging 19.7 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.0 rpg, and 1.5 spg. He also makes 2.3 threes a game at a .355 clip. Knight did bounce around for a while, but he seems to be a legit NBA starter -- which is what you want out of a lotto pick. (For the record, Kanter is a bench player in Oklahoma City as well.) Here's what I wrote about Brandon back then:

Brandon Knight, from the University of Kentucky. Even if all he ends up being is a younger, better shooting Devin Harris it's a step in the right direction for this team. I think he is less of a question mark than a guy who sat a whole year out (Enes Kanter). Furthermore, I'm not going to rely on the Timberwolves making a mistake. If they do, obviously the game changes. And if the Jazz (or T-wolves, or Cavs) make any trades the situation changes as well. But right now, I'm locking in my vote for Brandon Knight. If he spends the first 2 months coming off the bench and sharing time at the PG / in the back court with Harris and Earl Watson (who is a free agent) I think he'll learn our sets better than he would have if we just made him a starter "just because". Coming off the bench means that he'll have the opportunity to take it to other benches, and that he could focus on his game within our system -- instead of trying to fit his game in immediately into the starting role (which has different responsibilities). Also coming off the bench should add some sort of chip to his shoulder. We have a history of bringing guys off the bench at the PG spot who eventually earn (not inherit) it in John Stockton and Deron Williams.

Knight isn't perfect, but he has a lot of things going for him. He is super young, super fast, and has been touted as a very solid defender. Our dribble penetration defense was horrible last season. If he can help resolve that problem then he needs to be drafted with no hesitation.

Furthermore, he seems very bright. Which is what you want from a point guard.

- AllThatAmar, June 22, 2011

Klay Thompson, on the other hand, has been nothing short of a star. He has averaged 24.4 mpg, 35.8 mpg, 35.4 mpg, 31.9 mpg, and 31.7 mpg in his five on-going seasons in the league, and has been very healthy. He's got over 10.6k regular season minutes under his belt and has averaged 16.6 ppg, 18.4 ppg, 21.7 ppg, and 19.3 ppg over the last four seasons. His career three point shooting accuracy stands at .420 3PT. He was a huge part of the Golden State Warriors championship run last year and looks to be one of the best shooting guards in the league going forward. Years ago this is what I said about him pre-draft:

Klay Thompson . . . who I think will fall to us. In that I mean he'll be higher on the Jazz draft board and they will gladly pick him. He's a shooter's shooter and a second generation NBA player. He's been around the game his entire life and has an NBA ready skill. At the 12 spot you need to have something going for you, and he does with both his basketball iq and pure shooting. Also, this guy fits the bill for being a guy the Jazz did not spend a lot of time being in love with, in the media. He's kind of out of left field, and those are KOC picks. Not many people had us taking Gordon Hayward, Kosta Koufos, or Morris Almond either. Klay is not at the top of my list for this pick, and he's definitely not the guy I *want* the Jazz to take, but I think that he is the guy the Jazz would take if he makes it to #12.

I get a little too Al Davis-like and fall in love with combine / workout wonders. Sure, Klay doesn't have a 7' wingspan, a 12' max reach, or a 37" vertical. He's much slower than a bunch of other guys the Jazz worked out, as well. But you know what he is? He's a basketball player. He's Kevin Martin with much better defense and rebounding. He doesn't help us become a title contender over night -- but he can play SG/SF in the NBA and help spread the floor for our offense. He's not the defender that Andrei Kirilenko is, and he's not as athletic as Alec Burks or Chris Singleton. But he immediately makes our bench much more deep, and combined with Gordon Hayward and C.J. Miles -- gives us plenty of reasons never to play Raja Bell again.

And that's another start in the right direction for this team.

- AllThatAmar, June 22, 2011

I am bringing this up not because I think I'm smart or clever, or clairvoyant. I'm very often wrong about things too. Heck, I'm still expecting big things from Morris Almond, Kyrylo Fesenko, MarShon Brooks, and Myck Kabongo. My first love in life (not true) was Mouhamad Sene. So let's not get out of hand here. I know I'm rarely right. I think I was right about these two guys though. Knight was available at #3, but he dropped to #8. Thompson did not make it to #12 -- so that's the nagging thing. Maybe the Jazz WOULD HAVE picked him if he was there.

Of course, there's also a big chance that they balk on him because of the weed thing (something Big Al had his 3rd strike for a few weeks ago). Sometimes going for the "all choirboy squad" is great. Sometimes teams take chances and get players who help them win. The comments section of the Thompson / Knight article was important, we all got a chance to talk about things that were important to us. But at the end of the day, I think some of us find winning a title important.

Klay Thompson was a huge part of winning one for a franchise that had been absolutely horrible for decades. For his camp I think they felt like not falling to Utah was dodging a bullet. A know a lot of Jazz fans felt like we were dodging a blunt when he came off the board. Years later I still find all of this funny and frustrating.

Even I agree that character matters. But so do championships. And as of last count we still have zero.