A college senior when he entered the NBA, Jason Thompson continued to evolve in his seventh pro season.
With reduced touches on offense, the 28-year-old shunned his ego and served as the Sacramento Kings’ designated stopper in the post. Thompson was shifted to the bench following the All-Star break and played his longest stretches as a center, finishing the schedule with a near-even split of minutes at the four and five according to 82games.com. Along the way the 12th pick of the 2008 draft passed Peja Stojakovic as the Kings’ all-time leader in regular season games played (541).
Thompson is set to earn $6.4 million in 2015-16 and $6.8 million in 2016-17, but his salary in 2016-17 is partially guaranteed for $2.7 million. He signed a five-year, $30.2 million extension in July 2012.
Thompson recorded a career-low 5.3 field goal attempts and 6.1 points per game, but his anemic numbers were more a result of feeding teammates up the rung (career-low 12.7 usage percentage) and not eroding skills. When the big man came off the bench or DeMarcus Cousins sat, Thompson averaged six shot attempts and 7.1 points per match.
The veteran made 64.5 percent of his hook shots and 52.7 percent of his layups. Within eight feet of the hoop, Thompson scored on 52.4 percent of his tries. He hammered a career-low 34 dunks for the year, yet the pivot was blocked on less than one percent of his field goal attempts. Thompson’s jumper accounted for 57.3 percent of his shot attempts and he made 39.2 percent.
Despite notching 6.5 rebounds in 24.6 minutes a game, Thompson produced his best total rebound percentage in five years. His rate of 15.1 ranked third among qualified Kings behind Reggie Evans and Cousins. Thompson wasn’t as tenacious on the offensive glass as in seasons past, but he managed to pull down 1.7 per contest.
The frontcourt player’s defense, while inconsistent, was also a valuable asset. Thompson rose to the challenge of guarding the opponent’s best interior scorer and didn’t back down. Using his leverage and reach, the 6-foot-11, 250-pounder kept the likes of Blake Griffin and company under 1.3 percent their normal field goal percentage within 10 feet of the basket.
Beyond performance, Thompson remains one of the NBA’s most durable players. He missed only one game this season due to undisclosed reasons.
Thompson shot a career-worst 47 percent from the floor, which is hard to justify for a man his size. His shot selection remains a problem since he tries to create his own looks and takes too many contested attempts, but this could be a result of his marginalization in the offense.
Teammates rarely passed Thompson the ball, and he returned, or didn’t return, the favor. His 6.5 assist percentage was the second-lowest of his career.
The longtime King improved his free throw accuracy from 57.9 percent a year ago to 62.2 percent, and he still has a long way to go to match his 71.5 percent aim from 2009-10. Thompson hasn’t reworked his mechanics in the timeframe, which points to a focus issue if his practice isn’t enough.
And for all his success defending stars in the paint, Thompson was a major liability covering stretch fours. His knack for drifting away from the perimeter allowed his man to shoot 7.4 percent higher from downtown and five percent better on all attempts outside 15 feet. In a league with so many versatile forwards, playing center helped mask this weakness and it may be the answer moving forward.
No one questions Thompson’s offseason regimen and rightfully so. The big has arrived at training camp in peak condition every year since joining the association.
But having spent seven seasons with a team in constant upheaval, Thompson has hinted that he’d like to move on from the Kings. His feelings are compounded by his continuous and steadily declining role over time.
If Thompson returns, he can be expected to provide his relentless hustle, rebounding and post defense. Sacramento’s additions this summer will determine if his presence aiding the second unit is needed.
If the longest tenured King leaves in a trade, Thompson should find a niche as a reserve forward or center for a contending franchise. After all he’s endured in Sacramento, a chance to compete for the playoffs is well deserved.
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This is part 10 of our continuing “Season in Review” series. Below are links to the first nine articles.