KEY POINTS

  • Klay Thompson's return to the court caps a two-year recovery journey from injuries
  • The Golden State Warriors were able to build organically while Thompson was out
  • His return puts the Warriors in prime contention for the No. 1 seed in the West

The return of shooting guard Klay Thompson to the Golden State Warriors could not have come at a better time after a strong showing in their 96-82 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, January 9.

Thompson put up 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting from the field with three three-pointers in 20 minutes of action, highlighted by crossing over Cavs big man Jarrett Allen then dunking it over Lauri Markkanen and Lamar Stevens in the second quarter.

His return was everything that Warriors fans, and basketball fans by extension, have been waiting for since he went down with in the 2019 NBA Finals.

It is not as if the Warriors had been struggling to put away teams throughout the course of this season, but Thompson is the needle-mover that the team needs in order to secure a top-seed finish for the playoffs.

While Thompson was on the shelf for the better part of two years, the Warriors only got better thanks to drafting the right players and making smart moves along the way.

Warriors fans cannot understate the value that former No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins brings to their team after trading away Jacob Evans, D’Angelo Russell and Omari Spellman in February 2020 to get him from the Timberwolves.

Observers panned the move at first since the thinking was that Wiggins had reached his ceiling and was far too inconsistent to become a dependable piece on a championship-contending team.

In 117 games played and started for the Warriors, Wiggins is averaging career highs in field goal percentage (47.8 percent) and three-point percentage (39 percent) in just 32.8 minutes of action, three fewer minutes than his entire six seasons with the Timberwolves.

Other than Thompson’s return, the Warriors’ chances at an NBA Finals berth this season has drastically improved after the major leap of third-year shooting guard Jordan Poole.

Poole is currently averaging 17.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds in 30 minutes of playing time, all career highs for the 22-year-old from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Prior to dealing with his injuries, Thompson had been Stephen Curry’s tag team partner on both ends of the court as they rained threes on their opponents while being able to switch off on the other’s defensive assignment.

In a weird twist of fate, Thompson’s injuries have allowed the Warriors to retool organically while retaining him, Curry and Draymond Green as they age gracefully into the tail-end of their primes.

With 43 games left in the season and Thompson’s elite shooting and defense back on board with the starting unit, the vaunted Warriors offense is finally back to full strength and are back to frustrating teams across the league.

The Warriors face the 27-14 Memphis Grizzlies next on Wednesday, January 12, where Thompson meets Most Improved Player candidate Desmond Bane in what looks to be another shootout between two offensively-potent teams.