The Mikan Drill

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Summer scouting series: Klay Thompson’s offensive skills

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Klay Thompson is a player who saw a dramatic improvement in his production from his freshman to sophomore year at Washington State, due partly to his maturation and partly to new coach Ken Bone’s emphasis on pushing the pace instead of being mired in Tony Bennett’s slow down offense.

Today we are going to look what Thompson does well on offense and what he needs to work on to make his game even more dangerous. The Pac-10 is once again wide open, with no clear favorite, and WSU could make a claim for the top spot with the help of Thompson.


Three point shooting

The biggest asset of Thompson’s game is by far his jump shooting, especially his 3 point shooting. Growing up the son of Mychal Thompson meant he had a ball in his hands early and he perfected his jump shot.

Trailing the break here, he spots up for one of the prettiest shots I have ever seen. He is perfectly square, with nice elevation and a beautiful follow through resulting in a shot that hits nothing but net.

Creating off screens

When Thompson comes off a screen, he is a deadly player. He can spot up and shoot (clip 1) or can take a dribble or two to create more separation and pull up for a mid range shot (clip 2).

As seen in the first clip, Thompson’s release time is above average but it does not have to be too quick, since his size (6’6″) allows him to avoid the defense.

You can see how comfortable he looks running off screens. He uses them beautifully, as he rubs right off his screener’s shoulder, allowing him to pick off the defense and giving Thompson that little bit of space he needs to knock the shot down.


Creating off the dribble

Thompson is superb at running off screens but he is mediocre at creating chances off the dribble. He does not have the quickness or explosiveness needed to get by his defender by himself and has shown he needs to rely on screens to be effective a majority of the time.

Here, he runs off a screen but his defender gets through it and Thompson catches the ball facing him. He does not get enough separation from his initial defender and once the help defense steps over, he puts up an awkward looking shot that falls short.

We see Thompson get tripped up by the help defense here once again. He has a step on the primary defender but once the help shows, he loses control of the ball.

This is a weakness for Thompson, as you can see from the clips. He has trouble creating chances for himself off the dribble, as he just can’t beat his defender or can’t deal with the help defense. He does not really look comfortable off the dribble, so hopefully he can improve on this facet of his game.

Finishing at the rim

Although Thompson stands 6’6″, he weighs only 200 pounds and looks as lean as that sounds. I think this contributes a bit to his inability to finish around the rim, as he is just not strong enough to absorb contact or able to take a hit and still finish. Instead, he tends to put up floaters which leads to him avoiding contact.

In fact, his free throw rate last year was a paltry 34% (meaning he shot 34 free throws for each 100 field goal attempts), showing he did not take much contact in the paint. Even when he ventured into the paint, he shied away from the contact, as you will see:

He has showed that finishing around the basket (or even drawing a foul) is a major weakness in his game. He needs to learn to draw contact and finish around the basket, giving him the chance for the old-fashioned 3 point play. This can be helped by some time in the weight room and as he puts on some muscle, the confidence to take it into the paint and finish with authority.


There is no questioning Thompson is a great offensive talent and I fully expect him to take his talents to the NBA at some point. He won’t get very far if he can not handle contact in the paint, however, and he needs to start building some muscle so he can start building with confidence around the rim.

Thompson will once again be option 1 (and 2 and possibly 3) for WSU this season so he will have plenty of time to work on his shortcomings and improve his game. I know he will continue to be a top jump shooter but I will be interested to see if he can begin to create for himself instead of relying on screens to get open.


Written by Joshua Riddell

September 8, 2010 at 2:24 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Hello, and Thank You for the brilliant Klay Thompson scouting report!

    I found your website yesterday and must say I’m impressed. You can’t find as detailed and comprehensive player reports or offensive set analysis anywhere (at least not for free).

    I write about NCAA basketball in Finnish. While American college basketball and a language that is spoken by 5 million people thousands of miles away from the US isn’t the most obvious mix for success , there are a lot of knowledgeable NCAA enthusiasts here and my blog has a decent number of followers. I’ll look forward reading your upcoming articles and sharing the links with my readers.

    Best Regards,

    Jukka Myllyniemi
    Vihti, Finland

    Jukka Myllyniemi

    September 9, 2010 at 10:09 am

  2. He bangs all over this kid….its not ok to have a few bad takes when all the responsibility of scoring for his team falls on him?

    Twan Toni

    September 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    • Well, you found one example counter to my main point. One example does not make it a strength, however, and from the several games I saw, finishing around the rim was more of a weakness than a strength. Does that mean he will miss every shot around the rim? Of course not.


      September 10, 2010 at 7:10 pm

  3. Solid piece. I think you basically capture Klay’s overall strengths and weaknesses well. One area where I’ll nitpick a little is the FTR, where 34 percent is actually pretty average, and a VAST improvement over the previous year’s 8.2 mark.

    He was actually quite aggressive to the rim last year, especially early in the season — he used his jump shot to set up his drive. But you’re correct about occasionally shying away from contact, and that was more of a problem as the season drug on and he wore down against long and physical Pac-10 defenders.

    How much he’s improved handling the ball in traffic and dealing with defenders who crowd him will go a long way toward determining his (and WSU’s) success this year.

    Jeff Nusser

    November 2, 2010 at 3:11 pm

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