You've heard by now that Klay Thompson has announced his intention to test the waters by declaring for the 2011 NBA Draft. He stated that he hasn't yet hired an agent because he doesn't see the need, giving Cougar fans a sliver of hope, but the reality is that Klay's press conference sure sounded like goodbye.
At this point, we're going to work on the assumption that Thompson's going to leave his name in the draft. Even a couple of weeks ago, it looked like there was a realistic scenario where he pulled his name out. But with every big name that opts to stay in school, Thompson's stock rises -- to the point where it's hard to imagine he won't be sufficiently convinced he's now a lock for a first round pick.
The tremendous irony in all of this of course, is that it appears that the very thing that we thought might lead Thompson to stay -- the looming lockout -- is actually what probably will lead him to allow the deadline to pass on May 8 without pulling his name out. The talent pool in the 2011 NBA Draft just keeps getting more shallow, but the 2012 NBA Draft looks as if it will be absolutely loaded.
Working from that frame of reference, let's take a quick look at what this means for the 2011-2012 Cougars.
First, the obvious: This leaves a gaping hole in terms of scoring. Casual observers will wonder where his 22 points per game will come from, but savvy fans know the hole is so much bigger than that.
Thompson carried a tremendous load for WSU this past season, playing 83.3 percent of the available minutes and taking 33.4 percent of the team's shots -- 21st most nationally -- when he was on the floor. A quick Faisal Aden shot notwithstanding, the ball ran through Thompson at some point on every possession, and yet he was able to post an incredibly efficient 106.5 offensive rating.
Ken Bone doesn't just have to fill Thompson's point production; he has to figure out a way to fill all those possessions efficiently. That's not going to be an easy task, especially when you consider that the guys left behind were largely responsible for WSU's lackluster team offensive efficiency numbers.
So who picks up the load?
Put simply, it's going to have to be a shared burden, as nobody's going to replace Thompson's production alone. Additionally, it seems unlikely this team will receive significant contributions from the frontcourt. The most likely candidate to take the lead in this respect?
Junior-to-be point guard Reggie Moore.
Moore struggled tremendously this year after missing the first handful of games with a wrist injury. Struggling with that injury and other maladies, self-inflicted and otherwise, Moore never improved on the promise he showed as a freshman. His 106 offensive efficiency as a freshman largely was built on his ability to get to the free throw line, but his inability to get there with as great a frequency this year took its toll.
However, there were times this year when Moore was brilliant, and for all of the focus on Thompson, it was often the play of Moore that dictated the effectiveness of the offense as a whole. Moore will have the ball in his hands more than any other player on the floor next year. If he can get right physically, improve his jumper just a little bit, get back to finishing around the basket the way he did as a freshman, and bring a consistent effort on both ends of the floor every night, Moore has the potential to greatly minimize the effect of Thompson's departure.
Another candidate is Aden. This is a guy who already is a volume shooter -- he took 32.4 of WSU's shots when he was on the floor, an enormous amount for a reserve player -- who has demonstrated an ability to be downright flammable at times. He was incredibly efficient in the nonconference portion of the schedule, but his effectiveness dropped off considerably after Pac-10 play started.
There are a lot of theories as to why he struggled so much, and It's tough to know how much of it had to do with better defenses, how much was the knee injury he struggled with, and how much was just simple regression. He strikes me as a gym rat who will work tirelessly to refine his game in the offseason; if he's able to do that and take smarter shots in the process, he could also pick up some that load.
Some dark horses include Mike Ladd and DaVonte Lacy.
Ladd is a transfer from Fresno State who was a surprisingly efficient scorer there -- offensive ratings of 113.9 and 105.2 in his two seasons while taking 20 percent of the shots while on the floor. That's not a tremendous amount, but for comparison's sake, that's about the percentage of shots taken by DeAngelo Casto. His last season at Fresno he shot 39.1 percent on 3s on 169 attempts -- that's really good. Again, for comparison's sake, that's 12 more than Aden took this year, but 6 percent better.
Those familiar with the 6-foot-5 Ladd's game also say his defense is probably as good as anyone's on the roster, meaning he could have the edge to jump into the starting lineup for his ability to replace Thompson's length on the perimeter.
Lacy is the lone perimeter player in the year's recruiting class, and he was an all-state player at Curtis High School. He's 6-foot-3 and a bit of a combo guard -- above average at most every aspect of the game, including defense. He's got some work to do to become a high-level scorer in the Pac-12, as he needs to continue to refine his jump shot. But here's to betting he can give the Cougs 10-15 productive minutes a night next year.
Of course, there's always Marcus Capers. But let's be real -- if the guy hasn't developed a shred of an offensive game in three years outside of catching the ball and dunking over people, I don't expect it to happen now. If it does, it's gravy.
Final thought. If you're hoping that today's announcement will lead Bone to go out and sign one more guy to replace him, you'll be better off not holding your breath.
"We're not recruiting anybody else for this next team. We've got enough guys," Bone said. "Brock Motum, Charlie Enquist, D.J. Shelton [can fill Casto's role]. Brock has the best because he's the most proven so far. He's not really a back-to-the basket guy. Aden is returning. ... (I've) only met with 8 or 9 guys. Nobody else has indicated they're leaving."
It's going to be up to the perimeter guys to make it happen. Will Moore, Aden, Ladd and, to a lesser extent, Lacy and Capers, be able to pick up the slack? None of them can do it alone, but together, I think there's a chance they can make this team more efficient offensively than it was this year -- but it has to start with Moore.