Not too long ago the Splash Brothers ruled the NBA. They formed a dynasty by winning four championships and setting numerous team and individual records including a 73-9 team record in 2016. However, as nobody is exempt from the inexorable effects of father time, Klay Thompson’s once prominent role as a superstar with the Golden State Warriors has experienced a substantial decline this season. His contribution to the team is gradually diminishing, transforming him into an aging superstar who can still exhibit flashes of his former brilliance but not at the same pace and level that fans had grown accustomed to witnessing not too long ago.
After missing two consecutive seasons from 2019-2021 due to separate knee and Achilles injuries, Klay had a rebound year in 2021 averaging 20.4 points, and 3.6 three-pointers made per game. The 3.6 threes made per game were the best of his career until he topped it last season averaging 4.4 made threes per game at a 41% 3P rate, on par for his career average of 41% from beyond the line.
This season, Klay’s minutes and points per game are down and the lowest since 2012-13, with the asterisk of an exception of 29.4 minutes per game in 2021-22. While these numbers are down, his 3.3 threes per game this season are the 4th highest in his career. Although he is shooting them at a slower rate (37%) compared to his career averages, Klay, maintaining an average of 17.1 points per game, demonstrates that he still possesses some firepower and is proving that there’s still some gas left in the tank.
As the Golden State Warriors are fighting for the #10 spot, they have also been leaning more on their younger talent to produce more this season. Warriors rookie Brandin Podziemski is having an incredible rookie season, and as a guard, his output has directly hinged on Thompson’s minutes. Over the Warriors’ last four games, Podziemski played between 34-39 minutes each and has nearly averaged a triple-double during that span.
During the Warriors’ last game, a 109-98 win over Brooklyn, Steve Kerr opted to keep Thompson benched in favor of another young rookie, Moses Moody to close out the game. Thompson spoke with reporters afterward that adjusting to his new role has been “very hard”. He went on to further elaborate, “To go from one of the best players . . . it’s hard for anybody”. Thompson finished the game with eight points while Podziemski finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds in 38 minutes of play. Moody had just four points.
With the deadline approaching fast in less than 24 hours, at least one Knicks fan can’t help but think that the addition of Klay to finish out the season as the team’s 6th man would help address the lack of depth on their bench while providing the right complement to back up the red hot Donte DiVincenzo. With Klay making 43 million it’s not the easiest of moves to make and one that would cost a lot for a three-month rental but with that dollar amount expiring at the end of this season, the trade could address an immediate need now, while opening up several options for the Knicks come summer time.
The only realistic way that the Knicks could even make this deal happen without involving a third team, would be to package a deal that included Mitchell Robinson along with Evan Fournier. Moving Fournier is a no brainer. While many Knicks fans might be opposed to trading Mitch for an aging rental, taking a deeper look as to how the deal could help the team this season, and beyond, could end up paying dividends going into next year.
The Knicks have already shown that they are beyond capable of winning without Robinson as their defensive anchor. Upon plugging the trade into ESPN’s trade machine, the deal also projects two additional wins this season in the Knicks’ favor. Not to take anything away from Robinson or his outstanding defense prowess and work on the offensive glass, but Isaiah Hartenstein is having a career year since assuming Mitch’s role as the starting center. Over the past two months, Hartenstein has surpassed Mitch’s career statistical numbers in each of the main statistical categories except for offensive rebounds, and blocked shots- which are not too far off. With iHart’s superior offensive output over Mitch, he has the capability of being a more well-rounded option for the Knicks down the stretch.
As iHart’s development has evolved, so has his stock value heading into the offseason. So much so that although the Knicks maintain his Bird Rights reducing the risk of him taking a higher offer to join another team, it would be hard to justify giving him as much or more money than the $15 million Robinson is currently making to serve as his backup. It would be an even tougher pill to swallow to lose him altogether to free agency.
If the Knicks were to contemplate a deal of this sort for Klay, it would allow them to head into the playoffs with a stronger offensive second unit than they currently possess in which immediately make an impact by providing 16-18 minutes as a lethal shooter and space creator. They also get a four time NBA champion with more playoff and championship experience than all members of the Knicks combined. Although losing Mitch would be a significant loss to the Knicks’ defense, Mitch also hasn’t played since December. Ever since the Knicks acquired OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa, they have proven night in and night out that the team is beyond capable of winning without him and if he were to be traded now, the team wouldn’t be losing anything that they’ve become accustomed to playing with. With this proposed deal it rids of Fournier’s contract in the process. Come summertime Klay’s contract would come off the books which would clear the way to try and sign a younger stronger player during the offseason and allow the Knicks to re-sign iHart as the team’s starting center without having to relegate Robinson or iHart to the bench. This play would also allow them to keep what’s working so well with Precious in the rotation as Hart’s backup.
Do you think one-half of the Splash Brothers not named Steph makes sense for the Knicks this season?
Should the Knicks consider trading for Klay Thompson?