VIDEO: All-Star Thompson’s 3-Point Highlights
By Will Laws, Special to NBA.com
Lesser-known names can occasionally heat up and claim all three spots in this weekly column. But with All-Star Game participants being announced recently, many stars have stepped up their game as of late.
As a result, two of the players highlighted this week are 2016 All Stars. One will even partake in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, an honor that hardly needed justifying but has nevertheless been confirmed with some stupendous shooting lately.
The other? Well, let’s just say he has a long way to go before he’s considered one of the elite players on his team, let alone the Western Conference.
Note: All weekly statistics cover games between Jan. 29-Feb. 4. Players must have averaged 20 minutes per game to qualify.
Best Guard: Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
Austin Rivers famously copped James Harden’s (Lil B’s?) “stirring the pot” celebration in the playoffs against Houston last season, and he conjured up some more home cookin’ at the Staples Center in Los Angeles’ three home games this week. Well, call it two-and-a-quarter.
The much-maligned guard made 8-for-14 shots against the Lakers last Friday, the most made field goals by Rivers against a non-76ers opponent this season.
Rivers followed that up with 16 points against the Bulls behind five 3-pointers on six attempts, tied for a career high. That’s pretty darn good for a guy shooting 28.4 percent from downtown!
Note: You can hover over a shooting zone to see Rivers’ stats compared to the league average.
He just couldn’t get through the week unscathed, however. After finishing an impressive layup in the second quarter of the Clippers’ clash against Minnesota, Rivers was ejected after receiving a double-tech for complaining about a supposed missed foul. He only played seven minutes in the surprising 108-102 defeat.
At least the mercurial coach’s son shot 60 percent when he was on the floor over the past seven days.
Best Wing: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Klay Thompson is used to being second banana to Stephen Curry in Golden State’s backcourt. Thompson has played in the shadow of the reigning MVP for his entire career, after all.
Though Curry stole more headlines this week with a 51-point explosion, Thompson had the more efficient shooting effort overall — even if you discount his 45-point output against Dallas last Wednesday. With a scorching 51.7 percent clip from deep in three games this week, Thompson is now on pace to finish fifth all-time for 3-pointers made in a season.
Of course, Curry is on pace to smash the record he set in that category just last season, so Thompson’s accomplishment will probably be undervalued.
Thompson can beat his fellow Splash Brother in one regard, however — the leader of the free world proclaimed Thursday Thompson’s jumpshot is prettier than Chef Curry’s. So, there’s that.
Best Forward/Center: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
It was tempting to give this spot to Draymond Green, who became just the third player in NBA history to register a triple-double without missing a shot against the Knicks on Sunday.
But while Green took 21 shots on the week, LaMarcus Aldridge nearly eclipsed that total in the Spurs’ victory over New Orleans on Wednesday, continuing a torrid run since from a disastrous outing (2-for-9, five points, three rebounds) against the Warriors.
The former No. 2 overall pick sunk 12-for-20 shots and cashed all 12 chances at the charity stripe against the Pelicans for a season-high of 36 points. That was just two nights after he set his previous high-water mark in 2015-16 with 28 points (9-for-13 overall, 10-for-12 on free throws) against the Magic.
And while nearly all of Green’s buckets this week came right at the rim, Aldridge showed off the mid-range game that’s uncommon among seven-footers.
San Antonio’s marquee summer signing has clearly taken it upon himself to assume a bigger role on offense during the absence of Tim Duncan (knee). If this week was any indication, the Spurs’ well-oiled offensive machine should keep chugging along just fine when The Big Fundamental calls it quits.
Will Laws is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA players, NBA historical teams and dozens of other topics.