Klay is finally back
He will suit up against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the same franchise his Warriors beat in three out of four Finals during their heyday of the league’s most unbeatable dynasty. But things have changed immensely since then.
But that doesn't even begin to describe the changes his own team’s gone through. It must feel like being frozen in ice watching the Warriors plummet through a 15 win season, slowly spiral back up from Curry’s return and the acquisition of many hidden gems, to finally returning as a contender. He would have stayed frozen forever if he had been on a team like the Sacramento Kings.
Will Klay play like an All-Star again?
Despite the coldness, Klay is still as loved as ever by the fans. The first fan returns from the All-Star voting ranked Klay as the fourth most requested guard in the West. Over guys like Booker, Mitchell, and Lillard. If only the fans’ voices mattered in the NBA’s greatest 75 players list.
But the question remains: What can you expect from Klay?
To start with a positive, shooters typically have long careers. They don’t get banged up. They don’t rely on having the first step or flying through traffic. Instead, they’re more like comedians who bring out props. They can suck at absolutely everything, but at least they’ll always have one move in their playbook to keep the checks coming.
Speaking of money, Klay Thompson has made more money post-injury with zero minutes lodged ($84 million) than before the injury ($78 million). So let that one sink in.
But a more realistic concern is that damage from the injury aside, he has not touched a basketball in a professional game for over two years. This will be 315 days longer than Jordan’s first absence/ retirement from basketball, and even he came back rusty.
People love to brush off these comparisons of past historic injuries because of the ‘evolution of modern science’ but at the same time, place all their hope in historically freakish recoveries. To say if someone like Kevin Durant can make a complete return from a torn Achilles, then the same will happen to Klay exemplifies mind-boggling-level stupidity. Since when did we start letting Durant, an unexplained freak of nature, be the rule instead of the exception?
Because for every Durant, there’s a Cousins, McGrady, Rose, Hill and a hundred more names that stretch around the block. Dominique Wilkins recovered from an Achilles better than anyone ever without the ‘evolution of modern science’? Does that mean it will inevitably happen to Klay with his ACL? Of course not. Miraculous recoveries happen less than they don't. That’s why they call them miraculous.
The bright spot for the Warriors is that while their window is open now, they still have time and room for Klay. The Warriors have intentionally kept Wiseman, Kuminga, Poole, and other growing players - refusing to sell the youth for win-now players - in order to expand that rare window. Luckily for Klay is that the Warriors are still really good. Good enough to still be legit contenders. So worst-case scenario, Klay might just be the cherry on top.