The Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson has been gaining increased notoriety as the sixth man in Team USA’s rotation this summer while many pundits had incorrectly predicted the Raptors slasher DeMar DeRozan would be left off the roster. This summer, who made Team USA had less to do with being the better player and more to with being available and seen as the best fit, however, being a key member of the team many in the US have slotted in as the sure-fire Gold Medal winners in Spain will carry a lot of prestige heading into the upcoming NBA season. In the classic NBA comparison of slasher vs. shooter, which of DeRozan and Thompson really has the edge as the better player?
Thompson has three NBA seasons under his belt compared to five for DeRozan, but he is only six months younger and where DeRozan chose to leave USC as a freshman in 2009 to enter the NBA Draft, Thompson stuck around for two more college seasons with Washington State before he decided to go pro in 2011.
DeRozan was a slasher coming out of college and it’s a skill he has been perfecting with the Raptors. He has also been working on his jump shot which has gone from almost non-existent to a very reliable midrange tool with signs he will eventually become an average three-point threat. As a just turned 20-year-old rookie, DeRozan was abused on defense and frequently knocked down on drives to the basket, but those days are well behind him now.
Thompson was a shooter in college and transitioned that skill to the NBA without a hitch. He has shot over 40 percent from three-point range in each of his three seasons and earned his half of the “Splash Brothers” nickname bombing away from long range with Stephen Curry.
From a physical tools standpoint, Thompson is a 0.25” taller at 6’ 5.75” without shoes and both players have a 6’9 wingspan. DeRozan, however, can jump out of the gym with a 38.5” maximum vertical while Thompson stays closer to the earth at 31.5”.
After last season, DeRozan was objectively the better scorer at 1.27 points per shot to 1.18 points for Thompson and he earns it from the free throw line. Their stats for 2013-2014:
Stat(2013-14) DeRozan (NBA rank) Thompson (NBA rank)
Scoring: 22.7 ppg (10th) 18.4 ppg (25th)
Free Throw Attempts: 8.0 pg (7th) 2.3 pg (117th)
3pt FG%: 30.5% (144th) 41.7% (11th)
How these two players earn their living couldn’t be more different. However, DeRozan’s real advantage over Thompson comes not from scoring, but rather the “swiss-army-knife” package of skills that he has been developing. (The rankings shown below only include NBA shooting guards).
Stat(2013-14) DeRozan (SG rank) Thompson (SG rank)
Assists: 4.0 apg (8th) 2.2 apg (30th)
Rebounds: 4.3 rpg (7th) 3.1 rpg (27th)
Steals: 1.09 spg (13th) 0.91 spg (21st)
2pt FG%: 45.1% (23rd) 46.4% (20th)
Up until last season, both players could have been considered relatively even from a scoring standpoint in the 16-18 points per game range, but while Thompson remained consistent, DeRozan broke out last year. The case for DeRozan’s improved ability as a scorer stands out in the increase in points per 100 possessions. Last year, DeRozan shot up from 26.2 to 31 points per 100 possessions while Thompson remained below his rookie rate of 26.7.
The league noticed and DeRozan earned his first All-Star nod.
Taking the leap last year should give DeRozan the edge over Thompson based on the difference in points per shot, free throw shooting, assists and rebounds. Maybe playing those two extra years in the NBA instead of returning to college allowed the Raptors shooting guard progress just a little quicker.
Both players are getting the job done for their respective teams and are outstanding young wing players that should continue to improve. The time spent with Team USA this summer is expected to at the very least boost their confidence and possibly allow them to take their games to another level beyond anyone’s expectations.