The time has come: Klay Thompson will make his highly-anticipated return for the Warriors on Sunday, Jan. 9 when they host the Cavaliers.
Thompson has been sidelined for two full seasons after tearing his left ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals and his right Achilles just before the 2020-21 season. The sharpshooting guard joins a Golden State team that already owns the best record in the NBA, hoping to take it over the top as a title contender.
This means Fantasy Basketball GMs who have used an IR spot – a very valuable IR spot, at that, given all the COVID-19 absences – on Thompson to this point in the season will finally be rewarded for their patience.
While the Warriors have already announced that Thompson will not play in any back-to-backs as part of his injury management plan, the three-time NBA champion will still add plenty of value to your team during the home stretch of the fantasy season and into the fantasy playoffs.
How will Thompson’s return impact your team and other Warriors players in Fantasy Basketball?
Fantasy Basketball: The impact of Klay Thompson’s return
What can you expect from Thompson?
Even though Thompson will not play in any back-to-backs, the Warriors only have six sets of games on consecutive days for the remainder of the season. That means he should be much more available than, say, Kyrie Irving, who also recently made his return.
During Thompson’s last full season in 2018-19, he averaged 21.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals while also knocking down 3.1 3-pointers per game. As you would expect, his shooting splits were efficient, converting 46.7 percent from the field, 40.2 percent from 3 and 81.6 percent from the free throw line.
While it would be unfair to expect Thompson to return from a two-year absence and immediately average over 20 points per game, I do think he’ll eventually get to around that mark this season.
If you play in a points league, he’ll make enough contributions across the board to bring nightly value beyond just scoring. If you play in a head-to-head categories league, he’ll be even more valuable, as you can expect him to make a contribution to points, 3-pointers, steals, field goal percentage and free throw percentage. He’s also never averaged more than two turnovers per game during any season of his career, so he’ll help keep that number low, too.
It will be interesting to see how many minutes he’s limited to at the start of his return, but don’t let early performances discourage your outlook on Thompson. Once he gets back up to game speed, he’ll be a valuable cog for your playoff run.
Should you try to trade Thompson?
If someone is willing to part ways with a player of equal or greater value who you won’t have to worry about rest nights or a minutes restriction, then why not?
Thompson is a fan favorite – the type of player anyone would love to have on their fantasy team. As mentioned above, I believe he’ll make a strong impact for fantasy GMs during the home stretch of the season and really hit his stride during the playoff push, but you might be able to move him for a player who has no restrictions.
With that being said, you’ll probably want to trade Thompson before he makes his debut to get the most out of his true value. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to wait until he gets comfortable back on the floor with no limitations, which may not be until after your league’s trade deadline.
Which Warriors players are most affected by Thompson’s return?
Stephen Curry‘s fantasy value should not be impacted by Thompson’s return at all. The same goes for Draymond Green, who isn’t on your roster because of his scoring output anyway.
The two players who will be most affected by Thompson’s return are Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole.
While Wiggins is without a doubt still worth rostering, his scoring may take a hit. As of this writing, he is averaging 19.1 points and 2.3 3-pointers per game, but he may not see 14.5 field goal attempts on a nightly basis once Thompson takes the floor. Wiggins will still have his moments as a scorer, and he grabs enough rebounds and tallies enough defensive counting stats to remain fantasy-relevant. I don’t expect his playing time to be much affected, either, which bodes well for his production.
Poole, however, will be worth monitoring closely during Thompson’s first few games back.
Poole has been a microwave scorer for the Warriors all season and will be the No. 1 scoring option on their second unit. Should you expect him to continue to average 17.5 points and 2.6 3s a night? Probably not. But I still expect him to have opportunities to make a fantasy impact as a scorer and 3-point shooter who also boosts your free throw percentage and adds in a few assists and boards here and there.
Do not drop Poole right away just because Thompson is set to return. Wait and see how his minutes are affected and then make a decision based on his production.