SAN FRANCISCO — No Golden State Warrior has been more affected by the changes to the roster than Klay Thompson.
Since returning from back-to-back season-ending leg injuries, there had been a reliable, steady input and output from the five-time All-Star.
But, this season, with the addition of Chris Paul to the lineup and amid a deeper and better-built team, everything was in flux.
It hasn’t always looked pretty for Klay.
Don’t get me wrong: Thompson has been good. But his role is different, and there have been times when you can see it manifest in less-than-ideal ways.
This new role isn’t as active. Thompson spends much of the game on offense stretching the floor, instead of being directly in the action. On defense, he’s asked to defend in the post instead of on the perimeter.
Some of this is the Warriors conceding that Thompson isn’t the athlete he was before his injuries. Another part of it is the simple fact that Thompson is one of the tallest players on the team and the Warriors need his size and strength down by the basket.
It’s a big change for Thompson, and the Warriors not knowing if he’d take to it was part of why the team was hesitant to match his demands on a new contract before the season.
But on Wednesday, the former Washington State standout declared that he fits this new role just fine.
Not only did he hit the game-winning shot with 0.2 seconds remaining against the Kings, but he also added a brilliant defensive play seconds before.
Two game-winning plays in less than a minute of game action. That makes Thompson anything but an afterthought.
The game-winning shot will be replayed for years, as it should be — it was a great shot in a big moment.
But I thought Thompson’s block with 38.4 seconds remaining was just as critical to the Warriors’ win.
It was one of three — yes, three — blocks Thompson had in the fourth quarter.
Thompson might not be bulldogging the opposing team’s lead ball-handler, but he can still make a serious impact on the game as a defender. Wednesday showed just how committed he is to making this new role work.
OK, back to the jumper. It was vintage Thompson.
Yes, there were a few more dribbles than we’re used to seeing from him, but the wing cutting across the free throw line, right to left, and knocking down a 15-footer when there was no other offensive option is a throwback to the early days of the Dubs’ dynasty, when Thompson’s role was to make the most of disadvantageous situations for the Warriors’ offense, particularly with the second unit.
Thompson buying into this new role as a bonafide forward, not the 2-guard he’s played his whole career, removes one of the Warriors’ biggest possible hindrances to winning a lot of games this season.
There’s no question this new role helps them play an exceptionally entertaining brand of basketball.
No one knows if this will be Thompson’s last season in Golden State.
But if Wednesday is a sign of what’s to come for Thompson, I see no reason why he won’t be around for many years to come.