Every single time I say aloud to someone, “Khris Middleton is just as good as Klay Thompson” I immediately get laughed at or called an idiot. Some people don’t think Khris is deserving of the huge payday he’s going to get this offseason, but these same people would give it to Klay in a second. So what I did to show people the facts is, I looked at Khris and Klay’s stats from the 2015-16 season, and the 2017-18, 18-19 seasons and compared them. I chose to emit 2016-17 because Middleton only played 29 games due to left hamstring surgery. Yes, Thompson has been playing at an All-Star level for longer, but the NBA is a “What have you done for me lately league” and what Khris has done the past few years is remarkable.
First, let’s compare the size of the two wing players. Klay Thompson is 6’7” while Middleton is an inch taller and 7 pounds heavier. Also, Khris has a larger wingspan, 6’11″, than Klay Thompson’s 6’9”. Middleton has the slight edge when it comes to size, which gives him an advantage guarding bigger players, while Klay’s smaller figure gives him more quickness and athleticism on the offensive end.
Since 2015, Middleton has made 1 All-Star game which was last season when he joined teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo, while Klay Thompson during that same time period has made 4 All-Star games and 1 All-NBA Team. It may just end up being a popularity contest because at the end of the day, the numbers for the two are eerily similar. Counting together 2015-16, 17-18, and 18-19, Middleton averaged 18.9 points per game (lets bump that up to 19) on 15 field goals attempted per game, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. Middleton’s eFG% was 51.7% and his 3-point percentage averaged out to be 37.8%. He had a true shooting percentage of 56.5% (partly thanks to an incredible 87% from the free throw line) which led to an impressive 16.9 player efficiency rating on a high 24.2 usage percentage. His 11.4 offensive win shares and 7.7 defensive win shares during that time period puts him in a group of other elite 2-way players. For the three seasons, Middleton averaged a 110 offensive rating per 100 possessions and a defensive rating of 109.
Of course I can’t just say Middleton’s numbers without giving you anything to compare them to, so I compiled Klay Thompson’s stats from 2015-16, 17-18, and 18-19. In those three seasons, Thompson averaged 21.2 points per game with 3.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. Klay Thompson has always been an elite sharpshooter and the numbers backed that up. In those three seasons, he had a true shooting percentage of 58.9% while having an eFG% of 56.9% and a 3-point mark of 42.2%. He took about 17 shots per game but was still very efficient, earning a 17.1 player efficiency rating on a 25.2 usage rate. Thompson had 11.5 offensive win shares during the period talked about and 6.7 defensive win shares which generated an ORTG of 111 and DRTG of 110.
A lot of numbers, but all I want people to see is that Khris Middleton is just as elite as Klay Thompson. When breaking down the numbers anybody can see that Klay Thompson averaged 2 more points per game than Khris Middleton but he also took 2 more shots. Speaking of scoring, the biggest difference in numbers is 3-point percentage, Klay’s 42% compared to Khris’s 38%. The 4 percentage points is a big difference but let’s not forget that 38% from beyond the arc is still very elite. Great shooters like Bradley Beal, James Harden, and Kevin Durant didn’t even shoot 38% from three in 2018-19. Klay’s offensive rating when looking at the three seasons was 1 point better than Middleton’s but it evens out because K-Mid’s defensive rating was 1 point better. Also, when you look at the win shares for the three seasons, they matched on offensive win shares but Middleton had 1 more on defense. Finally, Thompson’s PER was only 0.2 points higher than Mid’s so that’s essentially a wash and they both did that with a similar usage rate.
At the end of the day, Thompson and Middleton both thrive in the roles they are given on their respective teams. Because of Middleton’s ability to put the ball on the floor, be a playmaker, and rebound, Thompson would not be as good of a fit on Milwaukee. On the other end of the spectrum, because Middleton needs the ball in his hands to be most effective, he would not be as successful on the Warriors. On the defensive end you may get just a tad more with Khris Middleton while offensively you may be a tad more efficient with Klay Thompson. The gap between the two players is so slim that it’s nearly impossible to say one is better than the other. So, if a fan thinks Klay Thompson is worth a big paycheck and Middleton “definitely isn’t,” I dare you to show them this article and see what their response is.
*All stats are regular season stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com*