It won’t be long until we get to watch Klay Thompson play basketball again.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, “there’s optimism” that Thompson will make his return on Sunday, Jan. 9 when the Warriors host the Cavaliers at the Chase Center.
There’s optimism Golden Warriors guard Klay Thompson will make his return vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, sources tell ESPN. A final decision is expected once the Warriors return from a two-game trip on Friday.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 3, 2022
If Thompson suits up on Sunday, it will be his first NBA action since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, marking 941 days in between appearances.
Thompson injury timeline: Sharpshooter nearing return from ACL, Achilles injuries
After tearing his ACL in 2019, Thompson missed the entirety of the 2019-20 season before tearing his Achilles tendon in November of 2020, causing him to miss the entirety of the 2020-21 season and the beginning of this season.
As he takes the floor after two devastating injuries, what can we expect from Klay Thompson? For more guidance, TSN reached out to our medical expert, Dr. Michael S. George of the KSF Orthopaedic Center in Houston, Texas, who had plenty of insight regarding players that return from Achilles injuries.
How good can Klay Thompson be after an Achilles injury?
According to Dr. George, simply returning to competition is a big step for Thompson, as he shared with TSN that “a 2017 study by Trofa and colleagues published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine looked at 86 athletes with Achilles ruptures in the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball. 30 percent never returned to play.”
Dr. George continued, adding that “for the athletes who returned, game participation averaged 75 percent in Year 1 and 82 percent in Year 2 of their pre-injury levels and performance statistics were significantly worse at one and two years after the injury.”
With respect to game participation, it’s fair to assume that Thompson will be under a heavy minutes restriction upon his return to action. In the 2018-19 season, Thompson averaged 21.5 points per game in 34.0 minutes per game.
This season, the Warriors have developed plenty of depth at the wing and can afford to play Thompson around 15 to 20 minutes per game to potentially ease him towards that 72 percent mark, which would equate to around 25 minutes per game.
As for his level of play, Thompson remains as one of the game’s greatest shooters, as evidenced by a recent video of him draining 24 3s in a row, as well as a number of firsthand accounts of his play during Warriors practices.
Dr. George cited a recent example of Achilles recovery as an encouraging sign of Thompson returning to a high level of play: “Kevin Durant has returned from Achilles repair and is certainly regained his pre-injury quality of play.”
Like Durant, Thompson suffered a torn right Achilles tendon. As both Durant and Thompson are right-handed, suffering the same injury could also be a positive sign for Thompson’s return as Dr. George told NBA.com in 2020 that “most people jump off of their non-dominant leg, so an Achilles injury on that side would affect jumping more than if it were on the dominant side.”
In short, there are a number of reasons to be encouraged that Thompson can perform at a high level once he returns to the floor.
Despite the fact that he will turn 32 in February, Thompson’s elite shooting ability will allow his game to age gracefully as he mainly relies on his athleticism on the defensive end of the floor.