Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Saturday at 4 p.m. PT streaming live on the MyTeams app.
It's been a strange season for Klay Thompson.
Last season, the Warriors' four-time All-Star shot a career-high 44 percent from 3-point range on 7.1 attempts per game. In his first seven NBA seasons, he never shot below 40.1 percent from deep, but this year, he's at a career-low 34.4 percent from beyond the arc on 7.6 attempts.
That isn't a small sample size that can be shrugged off.
Wednesday night in Utah, Klay went 0-for-4 from distance, which included two airballs:
Klay’s 3rd shot of the game came with 21 seconds left in the half. Mitchell did a great job of chasing and Klay rushes the right-wing 3-pointer = airball (and a frustrated pause) pic.twitter.com/eNj2W4WFED— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 20, 2018
Weird stuff: Klay fumbles the dribble hand off, and then chucks up the 3-pointer with 15 on the shot clock. Airball pic.twitter.com/pS8E75fJq4— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 20, 2018
This is ...
... flat-out strange.
After the loss, coach Steve Kerr said he's not surprised Klay is struggling with his 3-point accuracy because the Warriors aren't moving the ball as well as they did in prior seasons and only are getting "decent shots." While there might be some truth to that (especially when Steph Curry and Draymond Green missed double-digit games), the advanced metrics on Klay tell a different story.
According to NBA.com, here's what Klay is shooting on "wide-open" 3-pointers:
-- This season = 29.2 percent on 2.0 attempts per game
-- Last season = 50.5 percent on 2.5 attempts per game
That's truly a staggering dropoff.
How about "open" 3-pointers?
-- This season = 38.3 percent on 3.6 attempts per game
-- Last season = 43.1 percent on 2.9 attempts per game
And Klay on "tight" 3-pointers?
-- This season = 31.1 percent on 1.9 attempts per game
-- Last season = 34 percent on 1.4 attempts per game
So, yes, while he's taking less "wide-open" triples and more "tight" ones, Klay also is getting more "open" 3-pointers and just not consistently making them:
Klay’s defender falls down but he misses the open wing 3. Jim Barnett: “He needs this... that’s what he needs to see go through — those perimeter shots from 3-point range.” pic.twitter.com/4QgWhobpTL— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 20, 2018
Another layer to all of this is the big spike in Klay's mid-range jumpers -- many of which are well-contested by the defense. He's taking 2.6 shots per game from 10 to 14 feet, up from 1.7 last season. The crazy thing is he's making more than 51 percent of them.
The bigger issue is that Klay is averaging 4.4 attempts from 15 to 19 feet (second-most in the league to San Antonio's DeMar DeRozan), and he's shooting 46.8 percent on those. Last season, he attempted just 3.2 per game from this range and made them at a 50 percent clip.
In a time when NBA players are shooting more 3-pointers than ever before, Klay is averaging 2.7 more 2-pointers per game than he did last season. Why? It's probably a combination of team strategy (influence from the coaching staff), his slump from distance to start the season and his desire to add another dimension to his game. He doesn't want to be known simply as a 3-point shooter, and that's understandable.
But that doesn't mean he should just jack up inefficient shots to prove he can make them.
For example, look at his first shot of the game against the Jazz:
This was Klay Thompson’s first shot last night — a forced one-legged fadeaway with 17 on the shot clock from practically behind the basket... (Curry and Durant never even emerge on the screen) pic.twitter.com/lrLYRVwtkh— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 20, 2018
Kerr clearly tried to get Klay going immediately out of the halftime locker room. It didn't work:
Klay’s first shot of the 2nd half is not a high percentage look at all. It’s forced pic.twitter.com/XCNU8iTFAU— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 20, 2018
The good thing is Klay isn't letting his shooting impact his defense. He's averaging career highs in steals (1.2) and blocks (0.7), and he played a big part in Donovan Mitchell's dreadful 5-for-26 from the field Wednesday:
Even though he was struggling offensively, Klay was still playing hard on defense and doing stuff like this: pic.twitter.com/nABYK3Py15— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 20, 2018
Is Klay's pending unrestricted free agency impacting him? Is the uncertainty surrounding the Warriors' future in general weighing on him? It's hard to know one way or another, but we all know Klay is as care-free as they come, and Kerr repeatedly has said his guard is "zero maintenance."
The good news for Warriors fans is that Klay's track record shows he should regress to the mean at some point. And an extended hot streak from distance seems inevitable.
But until then, something just isn't quite right ...
Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller