The Warriors this season have missed Klay Thompson in countless ways. Obviously, the shooting ability comes first to mind, as well as his impact on the locker room. But the next two things on the list would have to be his standout defense and dependability.
It's not just that Thompson has cemented a reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. It's the fact that he is constantly available to apply that defense. Before missing this and last season with serious Achilles and ACL injuries, Thompson had established himself as one of the league's ironmen, missing only 25 games over the previous seven seasons combined.
There has been a gaping Thompson-sized hole in the Warriors' lineup the last two seasons, but ever since coming over in a trade in February of last year, Andrew Wiggins has done an admirable job in filling it.
Though they don't play the same position, they have performed similarly in function. Wiggins missed only one game last season after joining Golden State, and he has appeared in all 69 games this season. On top of that, Wiggins has chipped in 18.3 points a game, is shooting 37.8 percent from 3-point range and taking on Thompson's nightly defensive responsibilities.
Prior to the Warriors' game against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, coach Steve Kerr expressed his excitement about having both players on the court together next season.
"It's so valuable to have someone who you know you can count on every single night to play big minutes and to guard one of the opposing team's best players," Kerr told reporters via video conference. "Klay's been that guy for many years, and now Andrew the same thing. So what I love to think about is next year, having both guys in that role, two guys you can count on to be there night in and night out, because I think that's what's going to be the case with Klay. So, we start thinking about that, it gets pretty exciting. But we gotta take care of this year first."
Thompson remains on pace in his rehab, and while the Warriors certainly won't rush him, it's easy to understand why they're eagerly awaiting his return. Wiggins, too, is looking forward to playing alongside the missing half of the Splash Brothers, and when that long-awaited day finally comes, the excitement will be deserved.