Why Hield-Klay comparison isn’t as laughable as before

Why Hield-Klay comparison isn’t as laughable as before originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

“He’ll be a great scorer. He works so hard. He’ll be a tenacious defender. He’s physically gifted. He’s going to help somebody. He’s going to make a big impact.”

Klay Thompson on NBA draft prospect Buddy Hield

Klay Thompson could not have known that when he shared this opinion with me in 2016, he would leave the Warriors eight years later and create an opening for them to replace him with a man he described as his “Bahamian brother.”

On Thursday, three days after Thompson agreed to join the Dallas Mavericks, the Warriors acquired Buddy Hield to fill much of the void left by Klay’s exit.

It’s a sign-and-trade transaction with the Philadelphia 76ers (who will receive Golden State’s second-round pick via Dallas) that completes the five-team deal initiated by Thompson’s move.

Though Hield never will replace Thompson in the hearts of Dub Nation, or NBA postseason annals, it is quite conceivable he could replicate the production that was lost with Klay bound for Texas.

Really? Really.

There was a time when a Thompson-Hield comparison would have been laughable. When all they had in common was Bahamian ancestry and elite 3-point shooting, with Klay more elite than Buddy. While Hield was toiling in relative obscurity, Thompson was a foundational member of the league’s best team, a perennial All-Star and, in 2018-19, a member of the NBA All-Defensive team. He was on a bullet train to the Hall of Fame.

But Thompson has not been able to regain that lofty status since missing 31 months after sustaining a torn left ACL and ruptured right Achilles tendon. The injuries robbed Klay of his once-stellar perimeter defense, and his shooting has fallen to the same general district as Hield.

A look at the numbers, from the 2021-22 season through 2023-24:

Field-goal percentage: Thompson 43.3 percent from the field, Hield 44.8.
Three-point percentage: Thompson 39.7 percent, Hield 39.2.

Per 36-minute scoring averages by season: Thompson 24.9, 23.8 and 21.7; Hield 18.2, 19.5, 16.9. The totals are somewhat offset by Hield’s much lower volume, as he averaged less than 12 shots per game with the Indiana Pacers and 76ers.

Whereas Thompson’s statistics were compiled with the Warriors while sharing the court with Stephen Curry, Hield’s came while shuttling through the Sacramento Kings, Pacers and 76ers.

From an objective point of view, Thompson, 34, and Hield, 31, have become very similar players – and that includes defense. Hield’s 115.7 rating last season was slightly better than Thompson’s 116.1. Neither is superb, though Klay tends to hold his own against bigger players.

Then there is the fact that Hield has played the maximum 246 games over the past three seasons – including 84 between Indy and Philly last season. He’s not yet at the “load management” stage.

The Warriors have been preparing for the possibility of Thompson leaving since last summer, when he rejected their offer for a two-year contract extension at $48 million. They went through a maze of metrics, formulating Plans from A to Z.

Seeking an available big guard capable of providing the shooting and spacing Klay has for more than a decade, there weren’t many attractive options. Two of the five guys with more triples than Thompson (Ray Allen, Reggie Miller) are retired, two others (James Harden, Damian Lillard) are on other payrolls, and the fifth is Golden State’s point guard.

Of those whose value projected above minimum salary, no one was clearly better than Hield. Eric Gordon was an unrestricted free agent, but he’s four years older than Hield and quickly committed to the 76ers.

So, the Warriors settled on Hield. He’ll make $8.7 million in the first season of a $37.4 million contract that is almost $6 million less than the $43.2 million Thompson made in his final season with the Warriors.

Thompson is the one big offseason loss for the Warriors. They responded by adding Kyle Anderson, De’Anthony Melton and Hield. Like Klay, Buddy can be streaky but has the gifts for going on spectacular scoring runs.

For a front office that entered summer with the goal of acquiring Paul George, this represents a nice Plan C (Hield), D (Melton) and E (Anderson).

As the NBA signing moratorium ends Saturday at 9:01 a.m., the Warriors are one star, Plan B, away from making a remarkable recovery.

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