Most casual NBA fans will probably see this headline and immediately vote for Klay Thompson. He plays for a championship contender. He’s a “Splash Brother.” He’s hitting an absurd 3.6 triples a game this year, and averaging over 21 points per game. The Warriors are perhaps the league’s most exciting team to watch and Thompson is a major reason why.
But Brad Beal is already underrated. As the best scorer on a suddenly decent Washington team — they’ve gone 7-2 over their last nine games — he’s one half of the franchise’s cornerstone backcourt. He’s averaging over 20 points a night this year, and has scored 25 or more fives times in 13 games.
Two shooters. Two up-and-coming stars. Thompson is taller, 6-7 to Beal’s 6-5. Beal is younger, 20 to Thompson’s 23 years old. Which player is better? Beal or Thompson? We argue. You decide.
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When discussing the pantheon of greatest shooters in NBA history, names like Miller, Bird and Allen are already on Mount Rushmore. Though most would agree that Stephen Curry is the most lethal assassin from beyond the arc, these two are not that far behind.
Klay Thompson, by all accounts is a terrific player. The son of Mychal Thompson, Klay has more than come into his own in the NBA, teaming up with David Lee and Stephen Curry to spearhead the Golden State Warriors to the Western Conference Semifinals in 2013. In addition, he’s averaging 21.3 PPG this season on 48 percent from the field while connecting on 3.6 three-pointers per game.
On paper, Thompson gets the nod. However, when it comes to the eye test, I am taking Beal.
According to Beal, he grew this past offseason, claiming he is a solid 6-5 now. Why is this significant? Beal just turned 20 years old this past June, while Thompson will be 24 before this current NBA season ends. Having watched Beal play last season and basically every game this season, Beal is expanding his game on a daily basis, and thus his ceiling is higher.
To put this into perspective, I’m going to use a imperfect illustration. Lately there’s been a raging debate on whether Paul George is a better player than Carmelo Anthony. I go with Paul George for two simple reasons: George is the superior defender and he’s six years younger.
Now it would make a cogent argument to claim ‘Melo is the superior offensive talent compared to Paul George, but in my mind, Paul George is the better player. Hands down. He’s more dynamic and more athletic while being just as talented offensively. All this is to say I believe this will be the case in the Klay Thompson versus Bradley Beal debate in two or three years.
Moreover, not only is Beal younger than Thompson, but Beal is more explosive and has not reached his physical prime. Thompson is a skilled player, which is not a knock against him, but Thompson is not the athlete that Beal is. And though Beal and Thompson have a similar defensive rating, Beal has more room to grow into a better defender because of his youth, lateral quickness and general strength.
Another advantage of Beal’s youth is that he is not shooting a high percentage from the field this season, though he is shooting a respectable 43.9 percent from three-point range. Why? Beal has been working on taking his defender off the dribble, as well as off screens and in spot-up situations. It all translates to this: Beal is still figuring it out, and still averaging 20 PPG this season, which is incredible.
Opposed to this, Thompson generates most of his points from using screens and spot-ups. In this way, Thompson is a bit more predictable from a defensive perspective. And due to Thompson’s lack of forays into the paint and his aversion, or inability, to take NBA level defenders off the dribble, Beal is a much more three-dimensional player.
If you needed to choose one of these players to win one Game 7 in a playoff series, tonight, Thompson would not be a bad choice. However, if you were to choose one shooting guard to start for your team for the next 12 years, I’m going with Bradley Beal because ultimately he will be the better all-around player with the more accomplished body of work.
-DAVID JIN PARK