Klay Thompson

Kerr believes Klay's bench role must be future option for Warriors

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SAN FRANCISCO – If and when the Warriors and Klay Thompson sit down to begin talks about a potential contract extension, money definitely will be a major topic of discussion, but it won’t be the most pivotal part of the negotiations.

What almost certainly will be the determining factor is the role that both sides view Thompson will have with Golden State.

A five-time All-Star and key anchor piece on four NBA world championship teams, Thompson has spent the majority of his illustrious career as a valued starter while carving out a unique place in league history as one of the game’s best distance shooters.

But three years after overcoming a pair of major knee and foot surgeries that cost him two seasons, Thompson got off to a sluggish start to the 2023-24 campaign, was eventually demoted to being a reserve and spent most of the second half of the season coming off the bench.

Thompson didn’t initially go into the situation willingly but grew to embrace it over time. Once he got comfortable in the role, the 34-year-old future Hall of Famer settled in nicely and began playing the way fans had grown accustomed to.

Thompson believes he still can perform at a relatively high level. He played in 77 games during the 2023-24 season, his most since before the major knee surgery that sidelined him for all of 2019-20.

But Thompson’s 17.9 points scoring average was his lowest in 12 seasons while his average playing time dipped under 30 minutes for the second time in the last three years.

While Thompson would prefer to start wherever he lands, the Warriors’ brass and coaching staff might see things differently and want to keep their options open.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, for one, thinks that the idea of continuing to have Thompson coming off the bench has to be taken into full consideration.

“I thought Klay really showed that he was agreeable to the sixth man role the second half of the year, even though eventually we put him back in the starting lineup,” Kerr said. “I think that's got to be an option going forward.”

That’s where the money issue pops up.

Thompson’s expiring contract was worth nearly $190 million over five years which paid him more than $43 million for the 2023-24 season.

If the Warriors plan to re-sign him as a starter, will they want to keep paying him at that same level or close to it? From Thompson’s view, if they aren’t willing to do that, might there be another team or two out there that would?

From players like Stephen Curry and Draymond Green to Kerr and general manager Mike Dunleavy, there is plenty of support to bring Thompson back for another run.

But if the Dubs see him as a backup, they almost certainly won’t pay him starter-type money.

Even that creates somewhat of a dilemma for the team brass.

Golden State paid Chris Paul upwards of $30 million to come off the bench this season and have a team option that will pay CP3 another $30 mil for the 2024-25 season.

Thompson almost certainly will want to command at least that much to accept a bench role if that’s what it comes down to. And if that happens, it could mean the end of Paul’s brief tenure with the team. As free-spending as Lacob has been, it would be ludicrous to have $60 million or more of your total team payroll going to just two bench players.

For his part, Thompson isn’t ready to look that far down the road. When he spoke to reporters at Chase Center on Wednesday, Thompson preferred to keep the conversations focused on the Warriors’ recently concluded season.

“I really haven't thought about that deep into the future because I still need to process the year we had,” Thompson said. “It was one filled with ups and downs, but ultimately, we – I personally and our team – did everything we could to try and win as many games as we possibly could.”

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