Jason Thompson, 3-point marksman


“American Sniper,” a new film directed by Clint Eastwood, will star Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper and…Jason Thompson?

The seventh-year Kings power forward/center has been recalibrating a mortar shot of his own this offseason.

“You will see me shooting 3s. I’ll be shooting the 3 with a different type of arsenal,” Thompson told Cowbell Kingdom.

Despite the reconstruction of a backcourt headlined by rookie Nik Stauskas, the Kings could use another 3-point threat. Sacramento ranked 28th in 3-pointers made last season (491), and the departed Isaiah Thomas accounted for more than 25 percent of those makes (127). The Kings currently lack a true stretch-4, so Thompson could act the role.

In four seasons at Rider University, Thompson attempted 103 3-pointers and made 30 for a 29.1 percent clip. His senior year, the 6-foot-11 big launched 34 treys and converted 32.5 percent. Not too bad when considering Channing Frye shot 17.6 percent from deep his senior year at Arizona (beginning with Frye’s fifth professional season, he’s never averaged fewer than four 3-point attempts per game).

But after attempting one 3-pointer per game as a college senior, Thompson entered the NBA and stopped taking 3s, except on rare occasion. The 28-year-old is 1-for-26 in his NBA career, although numbers skew the story. In fact, a large percentage of those 26 tries were buzzer-beating heaves that failed to go through the rim.

Thompson’s improved post-play and willingness to bully the paint with his strong, 6-foot-11 frame helped result in even fewer 3-point attempts by his third season with the Kings. The 2012-13 season saw the veteran chuck two more prayers before his last legitimate triple. On April 15, 2013, in Oklahoma City, Thompson lined up an open 3 from the top of the arc and watched the ball rim out. Since, he’s played 83 regular season games without attempting a 3.

Thompson doesn’t lack a jumper. Amid the team-wide perimeter drought last season, the big coverted 36 percent of jump shots between 20 and 24 feet. Thompson’s quick, arm-reliant release has always drawn respect from the elbow, and now eyewitnesses confirm he has stretched his range in practice.

“He knows, he’s not going to be a pick-and-pop 3 guy,” assistant coach Ryan Bowen told Cowbell Kingdom Tuesday evening.  “But there might be a situation in a game where he’s stuck out there and he has to take the 3, and I think guys are comfortable knowing that he could take it.”

As desperate as Sacramento seems to spread the floor, Thompson’s expectations must be tempered. The longest-tenured King can hit as many 3s in practice as he wants, but once the ball is in the air during the regular season, it’s unlikely that he will see many long-range opportunities.

“We’re not going to set up the offense for him to pull up from 3, but you never know,” Bowen added.  “Certain situations in the corner, he might find himself out there and if he is confident he can make, let it fly.”

Perhaps the world isn’t ready for stretch-Thompson, but early indications are the Kings will trust the pro to take the shot.

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