OAKLAND – Indiana’s Victor Oladipo played 36 games before he was taken out of the race with a serious injury and San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray will miss play at all this season.
Philadelphia’s Jimmy Butler moved from guard to forward, so he can’t be considered.
Insofar as Oladipo, Murray and Butler accounted for three of the four guards selected last season for NBA All-Defensive teams, there is no legitimate reason one of those vacancies shouldn’t be filled by Klay Thompson, who never has received that honor.
“It’s always been a goal of mine,” Thompson said Thursday after shootaround. “I pride myself on playing both sides of the ball and that would be awesome, to make All-Defensive team before it’s all said and done.”
Thompson’s greatest asset on defense is on-ball pressure. He routinely is assigned to the opponent’s most dangerous guard, regardless of defined position. If it’s Oklahoma City, he gets point guard Russell Westbrook. If it’s Utah, he gets shooting guard Donovan Mitchell. If it’s Houston, he gets combo guard James Harden. He takes turns against the likes of Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving, as well as DeMar DeRozan.
And Thompson wins more than his share of matchups. Harden is shooting 39.7 percent against the Warriors this season. Mitchell is at 28.2 percent. Westbrook is at 22.6 percent.
Performances like that, against stars who dominate the ball, have put Thompson on the radar of voters at a much higher level than in years past.
“It is nice to be talked about in a good light,” Thompson said. “But at the end of the day, the love from media and the fans can be fickle just because it’s so game-to-game. We live in a time where it’s kind of ‘What have you done for me lately?’ So you can’t get caught up in the love right now because the end goal is far from that.”
If Thompson has been hurt by anything in the past it is the lack of basic metrics. But even those are improving. He’s fifth among shooting guards in steals (1.18 per game) after ranking 35th (0.75) last season and fourth among shooting guards in blocks (0.64 per game) after finishing 10th (0.47) last season.
The question is whether that’s enough to land a spot on the All-Defensive team.
“I’m not a steals guy,’ he said. “But we have to have some great defenders on this team. We’ve been in first place for four out of five frickin’ years. We’ve got to have some great defenders. It’s not just all offense with this team. We’ve got some great guys that play that side of the ball.”
Oladipo last year was named to the NBA All-Defensive first team, with Murray and Butler making the second team. The only healthy guard eligible for a repeat selection is New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday, whose chances will be hurt by his team’s poor season.
Among those vying for spots this season are Toronto’s Danny Green and Patrick Beverley of the Clippers. Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon has been terrific but likely will miss the final month of the season.
So this should be, the year Thompson finally makes the NBA All-Defensive team, first on merit but also on attrition.