How Buddy Hield Could Match Klay Thompson’s Warriors Production – NBC Sports Bay Area & California

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

– Klay Thompson on NBA draft prospect Buddy Hield

Klay Thompson couldn’t have known when he shared this sentiment with me in 2016 that eight years later he would be leaving the Warriors, creating an opening for them to replace him with a man he described as his “Bahamian brother.”

On Thursday, three days after Thompson agreed to a contract with the Dallas Mavericks, the Warriors brought in Buddy Hield to largely fill the void left by Klay’s departure.

The deal, in a sign-and-trade transaction with the Philadelphia 76ers (who received Golden State’s second-round pick via Dallas), completes the five-team deal initiated by Thompson’s transfer.

While Hield will never replace Thompson in the hearts of Dub Nation or in the NBA postseason, it’s conceivable he can match the production lost when Klay left for Texas.

Really? Really.

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

But Thompson has been unable to regain that lofty status since a 31-month absence after suffering a torn left ACL and a ruptured right Achilles tendon. The injuries robbed Klay of his once-great defensive line, and his shooting has fallen to the same general district as Hield.

A look at the numbers from the 2021-22 to 2023-24 seasons:

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

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

While Thompson racked up his stats with the Warriors, sharing the court with Stephen Curry, Hield’s stats came while playing against the Sacramento Kings, Pacers and 76ers.

From an objective standpoint, Thompson, 34, and Hield, 31, have become very similar players — and that goes for defense, too. Hield’s 115.7 rating last season was slightly better than Thompson’s 116.1. Neither is superior, though Klay generally holds his own against bigger players.

Then there’s the fact that Hield has played a maximum of 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 of a two-year, $48 million contract extension. They went through a maze of statistics and formulated plans from A to Z.

In the search for an available big guard who could provide the shooting and spacing capabilities that Klay has had for more than a decade, there weren’t many appealing 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 exceeded the minimum salary, none were clearly better than Hield. Eric Gordon was an unrestricted free agent, but he is four years older than Hield and quickly committed to the 76ers.

So the Warriors went with Hield. He’s making $8.7 million in the first season of a $37.4 million contract, nearly $6 million less than the $43.2 million Thompson made in his final season with the Warriors.

Thompson is the Warriors’ only major offseason loss. They responded by adding Kyle Anderson, De’Anthony Melton and Hield. Like Klay, Buddy can be erratic but has a knack for making spectacular scoring runs.

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

With the NBA’s moratorium on signings set to expire at 9:01 a.m. Saturday, the Warriors are just one star, Plan B, away from a remarkable recovery.

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