In the latest episode of the Open Floor podcast, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver compare Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson and debate which player they would rather have on their team.
Both swingmen are regarded as two of the best two–way players in the league, with Butler known as the better all–around player, while Thompson is credited for being one of the best shooters in NBA history. Both the Wolves (9–5) and Warriors (11–3) are off to hot starts this season, with their star shooting guards putting up big numbers along the way. Sharp and Golliver debate which player they'd prefer on their team.
(This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed).
Andrew Sharp: Would you rather have Klay Thompson or Jimmy Butler? Who’d you take?
Ben Golliver: In the past, I would have said Jimmy pretty quickly. He’s having a weird season kind of, right? How would you explain his season today?
Sharp: Andrew Wiggins is overrated would be one way. Thibs is not as good of a coach as we though is another way to explain it. No, I do think that he’s out of sorts and part of it is probably on him and part of it is the challenge of trying to integrate all those pieces in Minnesota.
I would take Klay, though, over Jimmy and over a lot of guys. Someone threw out the question: What star would you want next to Giannis? And Klay is high up on my list, and he just fits with so many other players around the league, whereas Jimmy you kind of have to run everything through him to get the most out of what he can do. And I don’t know if he’s quite good enough to justify that investment.
Golliver: I do think our take on Klay is kind of shaded by the fact that he is in the absolute best possible scenario for himself, with Steph and now with KD as well. Certainly he contributes to how good Golden State is, but if you were designing a scenario for Klay’s success in terms of what he does well and what he doesn’t do well, that would be the scenario.
So I do think if you threw Klay into a vacuum and you made him dribble and playmake a little more and the turnovers added up and maybe his limited finishing through traffic starts to become more of an issue, and he doesn’t have maximum space and teams are able to really key on him when he is moving off the ball more than they can now because there’s so many other threats. I think he would look meaningful worse than he does now. I’m not saying he’d be bad. I’m just saying I just don’t think he would as perfect as he does.
Sharp: That’s true to a point, but I also think that you can take 10 teams around the league right now, put him on any good team and he’s going to be really, really good and his role won’t be dramatically different than what we’re seeing in Golden State. If you put Klay next to Harden in Houston, he would be just as dangerous. Put him on the Spurs, just as dangerous. The Celtics, just as dangerous. He’s a player who is going to be super valuable to a really good team.
Golliver: This is going to sound condescending, but this is showing a real evolution of thought from you and I’m really proud. I completely agree. During the SI Top 100, we call it transferability, right. How many different scenarios would Klay work in? And there’s no question, if you have a lead guard who is scoring-minded or you have a system that’s built inside in, Klay is going to fit basically everywhere, and he’s multi-positional. So, yeah, we definitely are right to value all of those things. I think I might still pick Jimmy, but just barely.
Sharp: Well, Jimmy’s your guy. You wrote a cover story on Jimmy Butler, so you’re an unreliable narrator here.
Golliver: It’s not so much about that. No, get out of here. Don’t even try to paint me with that brush. I’ve written a few stories about Klay over the years. You might have heard of the Golden State Warriors as the greatest team in the league for four years running.
Sharp: You were there for the Klay Thompson religious experience in OKC.
Golliver: I think if you just strictly apply the vacuum test you would say Jimmy can do a little bit more offensively. He’s a little bit less reliant on others, and if you gave them equal supporting casts, his talent would show through just a little bit more. Klay is a phenomenal defensive player, too. I think people are thrown to Jimmy’s sort of ferocity on defense. They might be prone to overlook Klay’s discipline on defense and his intelligence on defense, so I think it’s really close on both ends. But, clearly, Klay is a historic three-point shooter, and that is what makes him so transferrable, and I think that’s why some of these early issues in Minnesoa, like if you just put Klay in there instead of Jimmy, it’s going to be a smoother transition just because he’s a pure floor spacer. He’s not trying to pound, he’s not trying to take touches away from anybody else.
Sharp: Good breakdown there, to throw one more player into this mix. We’ve hated on the Celtics a decent amount, and we have hated on Kyrie on and off for like six months. But I will say that watching Kyrie against Klay in the Finals last year was pretty unbelievable, because I began by watching Klay Thompson’s defense on Kyrie and he was just smothered on Kyrie, and was following him all over the floor and was just kind of in his jersey the entire time. And it was working great for the first game or two, and then it was like Klay just didn’t matter anymore and Kyrie still went off for 35 and 40 and was getting whatever he wanted. And that was when it was like, ‘Oh, sh--.’ This is not a joke with Kyrie, he really is one of the most dangerous scorers—at the Finals level, he can sort of do whatever he wants regardless of whose guarding him.
Golliver: That says more about Kyrie than it does Klay. It’s like how many guys could do that to Klay. I think even if you look at the other elite point guards, there’s not many.
To hear more from Golliver and Sharp, subscribe to the Open Floor podcast on iTunes.