82 GP, 24.5 MPG, 7.1 PPG, .506 FG%, 6.4 RPG, 0.6 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.7 BLK, 1.2 TOV, 3.1 PF
Needs to work on:
- Rotating on defense
- Setting a proper screen
- Comfort with a bench role
- Free Throw stroke + mid-range jumper
By many statistical measures, last season was Jason Thompson's worst in the NBA. He had career-lows in PER (11.1), Points (7.1), Assists (0.6), FT% (.579) and Offensive Rating (103). It was yet another season of transition for Thompson, a player who has been with the Kings for six seasons and seen dozens of teammates come and go. Michael Malone was the sixth coach in as many seasons that he's played for. He's seen a lot of losing, and every year he's asked to do something different, and as such, he's become very frustrated, as evidenced by multiple interviews such as the one he did with Cowbell Kingdom earlier this month.
With Cousins on board and two other big time scorers in Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay on board, Thompson's touches decreased pretty drastically. His Usage rate of 14.4% was the lowest in his career. This seemed to affect his confidence, especially early on in the season when he was coming off the bench behind Patrick Patterson. Thompson likes to get offensive touches, and for good reason too; While he's not the same type of threat as a Cousins or Gay, he's still pretty effective around the basket, and scored 69.9% of his attempts around the rim. Many of his post opportunities went away with Cousins becoming the go-to post option this season however, and while he can hit a mid-range jumper, he's definitely less effective from there. Sacramento's offense was 3 points per 100 possessions better with Thompson on the court, so he's definitely got some skill in that area, but he also spent a lot of time playing with Sacramento's better offensive players, and he struggled with the smaller role.
Thompson's declining offensive touches seemed to affect his defensive mindset as well. While he's a big body and is relatively agile for a big man, he's never been a real rim protector (averaging just about a block per 36 minutes for his career) and he's always been slow on his defensive rotations. That being said, the Kings didn't really have any better options defensively, and the team was about 2.9 points per 100 possessions better defensively with him on the court. Thompson's defensive strengths lie in guarding post players or one on one; We've seen him have some particularly good moments against players like Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love who tend to play farther out. But get him moving off the ball and switch up a couple of assignments and he gets picked apart easily.
Another area where Thompson has bafflingly declined year by year is in his free throw shooting. In his first few years in the league, Thompson was a near 70% Free Throw shooter, which is about what he shot in college. Then he followed it up with two 60% years until he seemingly bounced back at 69.4% last year. This year though he shot just 57.9% from the line, and I can't really explain all the variation.
Thompson would be a valuable player on most teams, but I'm not sure he's going to be able to be that type of player for the Kings. He really just needs a fresh start and some consistency, something he's never had since coming to Sacramento. That won't be easy to give him since he's got a few years remaining on his contract, so if he does remain on the Kings, I hope that he can adjust to the smaller role that is being asked of him and excel in other areas even if he doesn't get to handle the ball or shoot as much as he wants.
Tomorrow: Derrick Williams