Klay Thompson's All-NBA team snub is fair, even though it seems unfair

Klay Thompson's All-NBA team snub is fair, even though it seems unfair

OAKLAND — Klay Thompson failed to make any of the three All-NBA teams Thursday, and by now, you’ve probably seen his reaction. He looked as if he had been cheated out of a potential $30 million in salary and, moreover, out of his rightful place among his contemporaries.

Was Thompson robbed?

Well, yes and no. Please allow me to explain.

The first-team guards are Thompson’s Warriors teammate, Stephen Curry, and Houston’s James Harden, a unanimous choice. No beef there. Each is exactly where he belongs.

The second-team guards are Portland’s Damian Lillard and Boston’s Kyrie Irving. Lillard is an easy call. The choice of Irving, who was as inconsistent as the Celtics, is debatable.

The third-team guards are Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker. Both can be — and should be — debated. Westbrook is a stat monster, and that is worth something.

But all six guards share something that sets them apart from Klay. Each is his team’s leader and the primary dictator of its fortunes. Each is responsible for running his team’s offense, and all six teams tend to follow the path paved by those six players.

The only one of the six teams not to reach the playoffs is Walker’s Hornets, who were eliminated in the final days of the regular season. The general consensus, however, is that Charlotte has Kemba as its No. 1 and that he was surrounded by a bunch of No. 3s, No. 4s, No. 7s and No. 8s. No one familiar with the NBA could argue against the notion that Walker had a fabulous season but still is saddled with a mediocre supporting cast.

The Hornets finished 39-43. Without Walker, they don’t win 30.

Thompson has been spared mediocrity for all but his rookie season, 2011-12, the last in which the Warriors missed the playoffs. He was a part-time starter then, and since has become a crucial member of one of the best teams in NBA history.

Never, though, has there been a season or even a month in which Thompson was forced to serve as dominating scorer as well as a primary facilitator. The leadership burden he bears is not nearly as heavy as those borne by the six players voted ahead of him.

By that measure, Thompson doesn’t belong on the All-NBA team. He was eighth in the voting among guards. What’s criminal is that he somehow finished behind Washington’s Bradley Beal.

By any other measure, though, Thompson belongs. When one considers his two-way responsibilities, it’s silly to argue against him being one of the six best guards in the league.

“The guy is a machine,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s incredible how he moves offensively and then pursues his man defensively. He usually plays on the ball defensively and does a lot of switching, guards post men after a switch. The physical stamina that Klay displays is amazing. He leads us in minutes played.

“He’s just ... he’s a machine out there.”

Thompson’s ability as an elite defender and off-the-ball offensive threat allows Curry to play his game at its best. The two are a wonderful complement because each has assets that offset the imperfections of the other.

What could not be taken away from Thompson was his selection to the All-Defensive second team. It’s overdue by at least two years.

“He should have been first,” Draymond Green, also voted to the second team, said of Thompson

Thompson said he was grateful for the acknowledgement, describing it as a “huge honor” and motivation for the future.

But he clearly is rankled by the All-NBA snub. Thompson believes, rightfully, that he’s one of the six best guards in the league.

“I respect those guys, but when you go to five straight [Finals], it takes more than just a couple All-NBA guys,” Thompson said. “It’s like an all-time team.

“But whatever. I’d rather win a championship than be third team all-NBA, so it’s all good.”

[RELATED: How Klay's snub helps Warriors]

Thompson is, for my nickel, the best two-way guard in the league. But All-NBA honors are less about who is best than about which player is more valuable to his team. Irving, Westbrook and Walker are even more crucial to their team than Thompson is to his.

That’s the best, maybe only, way to make sense of Thompson not finishing among the top six.

Warriors' Klay Thompson will return 'late next season,' father Mychal says

Warriors' Klay Thompson will return 'late next season,' father Mychal says

There is not yet an official timeline for Klay Thompson’s return to the Warriors lineup, but his father provided a pretty good update the other day.

Mychal Thompson, who accompanied Klay out of Oracle Arena after the shooting guard sustained a torn ACL in his left knee in Game 6 of The Finals, indicated his son may be able to resume moderate basketball activities by the end of the calendar year.

“He’s walking normally and he’s very optimistic and enthusiastic about getting back late next season,” Thompson said on the NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors Insider podcast.

“Once he gets back up to the bay and is around the team and he’s working out . . . he probably won’t be on the court doing fullcourt drills until late December or January. So, he’s got quite a ways to go. The main thing is to stay dedicated and diligent in your rehab and just continue to work hard and keep that motivation to get back on the court with his teammates.”

Thompson sustained the injury on June 13 and underwent surgery on July 2. With a typical recovery period falling anytime between six months and nine months, his father’s projection is within range.

Mychal even offered a comparison: Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, who had surgery in February 2017. LaVine five months later (in July) announced himself ahead of schedule. Four months later, he was throwing down windmill dunks in full-contact practices.

When LaVine did not return until January, it was speculated that he could have come back sooner if the Bulls weren’t committed to tanking.

There is no questioning that LaVine aced his recovery.

“Modern medicine has advanced so much since 10, 15, 20 years ago,” Mychal Thompson said. “Guys come back from this injury and are normal. You can look at a bunch of players in the league now who have suffered that injury and have come back because they’ve dedicated themselves to their rehab. And they come back as if nothing ever happened.

“Doctors are so good now. Modern medicine is so good at repairing these athletes. That’s the way I talked to Klay. You’re going to be fine. Look at Zach LaVine. He had the same injury and is as bouncy as ever because guys like that work hard to come back. (Klay) will come back stronger than ever.”

Thompson’s injury led some to wonder if the Warriors might reduce the proposed max contract offer once he became a free agent. They didn’t. Thompson last month signed a five-year pact worth $190 million.

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“We never worried about that, because (Warriors CEO) Joe Lacob and management have been so loyal to their core players and what they have meant to that franchise,” Mychal Thompson said. “And with this injury, every doctor assured Klay and the Warriors that he was going to come back as good as ever.”

The Warriors would happily accept that and remain hopeful that Thompson will be able to return to game action sometime in February or March.

Why Bob Myers believes Warriors' title run felt like 'running five marathons'

Why Bob Myers believes Warriors' title run felt like 'running five marathons'

It's hard to blame the man.

After five consecutive runs to the NBA Finals, just about every member of the Warriors' organization was drained. General manager Bob Myers recently joined The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami on his podcast, and went in-depth on the toll these seasons have taken.

“Thinking back to my state of mind, there's things I know. I was tired, I know that. Just the five years, I don't know how that plays with the audience and listeners and how to convey that appropriately, but internally, for those that work here, that was, we felt that.

“And not having time each offseason, leading right into the draft, leading right into free agency, I look at it as running five marathons back-to-back-to-back. And the fifth one, you're just like 'Can we cross the line?'”

Myers also constantly dealt with questions regarding the 2019 free agency period throughout the tail end of the season.

“I didn't have that kind of certainty that you intimated as far as did I know if Kevin was gonna go or stay. It was more of, 'There's a lot of work to do and a lot of unknowns’.”

[RELATED: Warriors projected to face Clippers in playoffs by ESPN real plus-minus]

KD’s departure put a bow on what was one of the most dominant three-year runs by a team in NBA history. Although the team salvaged All-Star D’Angelo Russell in the Durant sign-and-trade, the Dubs still enter 2020 with a litany of questions.

“I don't think it was a fear of what was upcoming, it was just more of, there's a lot of uncertainty.”