The NBA season began Tuesday night and TNT Analyst and former NBA All-Star Charles Barkley wasted no time in delivering a fiery hot take: Klay Thompson is the second-best player in the NBA behind Lebron James.
via Inside The NBA
That’s right, Charles Barkley claims Klay Thompson is better than his two MVP teammates Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, better than Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard, better than 9-time All-Star Chris Paul, and better than everyone not named Lebron James.
While it can’t be denied that Klay Thompson is an outstanding player who contributes on both ends of the floor, the idea of Thompson being a top 2 or even top 5 player in the NBA is ludicrous and one of the more outlandish statements made by Charles Barkley, which is saying something.
A simple look at the numbers quickly proves Barkley’s claim is as absurd as it sounds. When looking at Player Efficiency Ratings (PER for short), a system that is widely used among executives and scouts in the league, Klay Thompson ranked 34th in the NBA last season with a rating of 18.6. That is an extreme drop off from the top six ranked players in the league: Curry, Durant, James, Westbrook, Paul, and Leonard, who all had PER ratings of 26.0 or higher.
A key part of Barkley’s argument in favor of Thompson is the fact that he plays both sides of the ball and defends extremely well compared to his teammates Curry and Durant. However, when delving deeper into statistics from the past year, Thompson ranked outside of the Top 10 in Defensive Rating and outside of the Top 20 in Defensive Win Shares, which calculates an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense. Fellow teammate Steph Curry, who is not nearly as highly regarded for his defense, ranked 10th in the league last season in Defensive Win Shares, well above his teammate Thompson. All of the advanced metrics leaders from last season can be seen here.
As mentioned before, this article in not a knock on Thompson, who is an incredible player and deserves all the accolades he can get for his play over the past two seasons, but the declaration of Thompson as a top player in league cannot go unchecked.
If advanced metrics aren’t your cup of tea, old school stats show Thompson is outside of the upper echelon of players in the league as well. Thompson averaged 22.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 0.8 steals per game last season. Compare those numbers to say Chris Paul, who Barkley didn’t even mention in his Top 5 list, and there is no comparison. Paul averaged 19.5 points, 4.2 rebounds (at 6’0″ tall), 10.0 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. Kawhi Leonard, who put on an absolute show in the season opener against Thompson and the Warriors, averaged 21.2 points per game last season, but also averaged more rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks than Thompson.
Along with Paul and Leonard, Russell Westbrook and Thompson’s fellow teammates Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant all put up better numbers across the board than Thompson. And that’s only five examples and doesn’t even include stars who can make a claim to be on par with, if not better than, Thompson, such as James Harden, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Damian Lillard, and even Thompson’s other all-star teammate Draymond Green.
While Thompson remains one of the league’s premier sharp-shooters, he is an average rebounder and passer and falls short of the standard of the NBA elite.
Sorry Chuck, but your claim that Thompson is the second-best player in the NBA is just turrible.