Klay Thompson isn't the best shooting guard in the NBA

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By JAKE FISCHER
College Contributor Network

The Golden State Warriors and Klay Thompson have until Oct. 31 to agree to a contract extension. If the two sides fail to strike a deal, Thompson will become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2014-15 campaign.

Clearly the Warriors value Thompson tremendously. Golden State could have reportedly swapped Thompson and David Lee for Kevin Love over the summer had the team not valued the guard's prolific shooting ability and his improving defensive prowess.

That's why Thompson's agent, Bill Duffy, claims the Splash Brother is the best shooting guard in the NBA.

"I don't want Kobe Bryant to go crazy, but there's some uncertainty as to who he is right now (because of injuries that limited him to six games last season)," Duffy told USA TODAY Sports earlier this month.

"But I think Klay Thompson right now is the top two-way, two-guard in basketball. I think when you look at his body of work, when you look at what he accomplished guarding point guards on a regular basis (last season), I think it's pretty clear."

James Harden is certainly shaking his head. DeMar DeRozan likely disagrees. Let's ask Lance Stephenson, Joe Johnson and Arron Afflalo, too. All five of those shooting guards have something in common: they're among the 23 other players officially listed as shooting guards that boasted a higher PER than Thompson one year ago.

Yup, 23.

That in no way means Thompson is the 24th best shooting guard in the NBA. While PER is a very useful analytical tool, it is certainly not the end-all, be-all of statistical analysis. After all, he was fifth amongst the position in three-point percentage at 41.7 percent and seventh in scoring at 18.4 points per game.

But wait: Thompson, who represented the USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer, ranked just 12th in overall field goal percentage, 16th in free throw percentage, 27th in rebounding and 31st in assists last season.

Sure, but he's undeniably one the best defenders at the position, right?

Eh.

Last season, Thompson ranked 8th in blocks amongst two-guards, but just 24th in steals. Of all players that play guard or guard-forward, Thompson was just 27th in the league in individual defense rating, according to basketball-reference, where he was wedged between Mario Chalmers and Derek Fisher.

Klay Thompson is an unbelievable shooter and a dynamic offensive talent. At 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, he's a matchup nightmare for opponents at his position. He has a criminally underrated post game to pair with his impeccable ability to run off screens and drain threes on the move.

"

Still, the numbers strictly don't allow one to argue Thompson is the best two-way two-guard in the game, let alone worth the max contract that Duffy reportedly will request. Especially when you consider Stephen Curry will earn an average of $11 million each season through 2016-17, Duffy will have an uphill battle in negotiations.

Maybe this is another indictment for our inability to quantify an individual player's defensive ability. Even with what's written above, it's still impossible to determine where Thompson definitively ranks amongst other shooting guards in the league defensively.

Maybe this is also simply a case study of how reality is often misconstrued by basketball fans' perception. Scoring has always sold tickets in the NBA. There's a reason why Allen Iverson captivated arenas across the country.

As of now, Klay Thompson passes that eye test. He's a lethal scorer and one of the deadliest shooters in the game. But he's not the best shooting guard in the league and he'll likely fail to make the All-Star game this season once again.

Thompson is worth an eight-figure salary in today's game. Let's just try and keep things in perspective.


Jake Fischer is a junior at Northeastern University. He covers the NBA for SLAM Magazine and SB Nation, writes for the Boston Globe and lives and dies with the Philadelphia 76ers. Follow him on Twitter: @JakeLFischer
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