2011 NBA Mock Draft: Checking In On Klay Thompson's Stock

Klay Thompson's ability to rise and fire above most any defender is a major selling point to NBA execs thinking about drafting the former Washington State star. Most mock drafts still have Thompson in the middle of the first round.

Two weeks ago, we checked in on former -- I know, it pains me to write it as much as it does for you to read it, but it's accurate -- Washington State star Klay Thompson as the NBA Draft scouting process got underway in the aftermath of the early-entry deadly passing. The early returns were favorable. Now that it's been clear for a couple of weeks who's in and who's out, the hardcore scouting has begun in earnest, even if the 2011 NBA mock drafts aren't showing substantial changes yet.

The most comprehensive scouting report you'll find on Thompson is over at DraftExpress.com, where they love his shooting ability and think that the fact that he's already demonstrated an ability to work without the ball could make him a candidate to make an immediate impact in the league:

Thompson's lack of great athletic tools is somewhat concerning, though his solid size at 6'7 combined with a high release and a shot that doesn't need much separation should somewhat mitigate the increased athleticism and length he'll see from defenders. Transitioning from a first to likely third or fourth option will also help, while his high motor, constant off-ball movement, and feel for getting open will likely be his biggest assets. If he continues to exhibit those traits with a smaller role, he can be a major asset for a well-run half court offense.

Some scouting reports have expressed concern over his lack of a dominant first step, but DraftExpress rightly observes that Thompson is so good at positioning his body and catching the ball in the right spots that he's often able to generate an advantage over defenders without that so-called "elite athleticism":

Thompson's biggest assets in his dribble-drive game are his decisiveness and off-ball motion, however, as he frequently gets a half step on his man before he even puts the ball on the floor due to the positions he catches the ball in. This, combined with his quick decision-making and good recognition of driving lanes make him dangerous with straight-line drives from the wing, which should at least be enough to keep NBA defenses honest.

Of course, like everyone else, they're concerned about how his lack of upper-end athleticism will affect his ability to play defense. I've grown a little weary of this, as it seems to have become a bit of a canard, but I think their take is actually entirely fair:

He is noticeably lacking in lateral quickness and is taken off the dribble often. Thompson's effort level on the defensive end has improved during his time in college, and he shows solid awareness and makes good rotations off the ball, but his lack of quickness is certainly something that can be exploited. His problems can be hid somewhat on good defensive teams, and his apparent effort level and capacity for playing good team defense will certainly be useful, though he'd have a lot of work to do to even become an average NBA defender overall.

This jives with everything I saw out of Thompson in his three years at WSU. Does he sometimes get beat off the dribble? Yes. Does he stupidly reach sometimes? Yup. But he also is a fantastic team defender who knows where he's supposed to be on the floor and is exceptional at providing help-side defense. He can bother people with his long arms and block the occasional shot. He'll likely struggle in isolation in the NBA at times, especially early in his career, but he does enough things well that it's not going to hurt his draft stock.

Their latest mock draft has him going 15th overall to the Indiana Pacers.

Another in-depth scouting report comes from RushTheCourt.net. It's a college site, but it's a pretty solid review of where Thompson's skills stand as he heads for the NBA, and I think they nail what his upside is at the NBA level:

Best Case Scenario: Can’t you just see Thompson averaging 12 points a game and knocking down 40% of his threes for a dozen years or so? Given how comfortable and effective he is with the ball in his hands, maybe some team that is lacking a great true point even runs their offense through him for a couple of seasons. He’d have to catch lightning in a bottle to ever be an all-star caliber player, but Thompson could be a consistent NBA starter, or even a dose of instant-offense as a scorer off the bench.

Chad Ford at ESPN.com is posting just bite-sized nuggets on each guy as he goes along. From his most recent take on Thompson:

His ability to shoot off the dribble combined with his excellent size (6-7 with a 6-9 wingspan) are going to be very intriguing for a number of teams in need of a shooter. He also handled interviews well. ... [snip] ... While NBA teams will continue to do their due diligence to get a better feel for how big a problem it was or might be in the future, they came away encouraged. Look for the Bobcats, Bucks, Jazz, Suns, Pacers, Knicks and Wizards to all give him a long look.

He's got Thompson rated 15th overall, but going 18th to the Washington Wizards, just like SBNation.com's own Tom Ziller in his 2011 NBA Mock Draft:

18. Washington Wizards: Klay Thompson, F/G, Washington State. Thompson has pulled the ol' 180 on a weed violation -- he's responded to questions so openly and maturely that it's almost turned into a positive. The NBA: where explaining an arrest effectively boosts your draft stock.

You know where Thompson was in these mock drafts two weeks ago? Same spots. Look for these mock drafts to start to shake up a little as teams conduct their individual workouts in the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft on June 23.

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