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Melton Dubbed ‘Better Fit’ for Warriors Than Klay Thompson

The Golden State Warriors made two free-agent additions in an attempt to replace the departed Klay Thompson, and at least one NBA insider believes they’ve done that and more.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN co-hosted the July 2 edition of the “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” podcast, during which he contended that De’Anthony Melton — should he remain healthy — will complement the Dubs’ rotation better next season than Thompson would have had he re-signed with the team.

“If De’Anthony Melton’s back is okay, which is a big if because he missed basically the entire 2024 calendar year because of ongoing back issues, he’s a better fit for the Warriors this year than Klay Thompson,” Bontemps said.

De’Anthony Melton Is Younger, Less Expensive & Better Defensively Than Klay Thompson

De'Anthony Melton

GettyDe’Anthony Melton, formerly of the Philadelphia 76ers.

That is a considerable statement for Bontemps to make given Thompson’s 13 years of service in the Bay Area, which include five All-Star appearances, four championship rings and most likely a statue outside of Chase Center at some future point, per head coach Steve Kerr via the Warriors on NBCS X account. But there is a solid argument to back up the assertion.

Firstly, Melton is only 26 years old while Thompson is 34. Melton is coming off of back problems that cost him 44 regular-season games last year while a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. Thompson was far healthier last season, appearing in 77 contests, though he sat out the entirety of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 campaigns due to an ACL tear followed by an Achilles tear.

Those injuries also cost Thompson 50 games the following season and, coupled with the passage of time and two and a half years absent from competitive basketball, the defensive prowess that made him arguably the best two-way player in the NBA for much of his prime.

Melton, on the other hand, has been an excellent defender across his entire six-year career, including last season when he finished with 1.6 steals per game and a defensive rating of 112.6, which was 3.5 points better than the league average of 116.1.

“I could see [Melton] starting at the [shooting guard spot], because he is a dynamite defender and he is a borderline 40% 3-point shooter,” Bontemps said on July 2. “De’Anthony Melton is really good.”

De’Anthony Melton Can’t Replicate Klay Thompson’s Offense, But Isn’t Far Off

Warriors star Klay Thompson

Getty Klay Thompson, formerly of the Golden State Warriors.

Thompson remains an elite 3-point shooter, and while Melton is not the same type of offensive threat, he is good enough to suit the Warriors’ purposes.

Melton shot 37.9% from deep on 5.4 attempts per contest across two years in Philadelphia and has connected on 36.9% of 4.1 attempts per game over the course of his career, per Basketball Reference. He averaged a career-high 11.1 points on 9.5 shots from the field per night for the Sixers last year.

Thompson is a career 41.3% shooter from the 3-point line on 7.6 attempts per game, though his percentage dipped to 38.7% on 9.0 tries per outing in 2023-24. He averaged 17.9 points on 14.7 field goal attempts per night during the campaign.

By comparison, Melton shoots well enough to keep the Warriors’ desired floor spacing in tact because defenders must respect his accuracy from long-range, while averaging nearly as many points per shot attempt as Thompson did last year (1.17 points per try for Melton compared to 1.22 points per try for Thompson).

Melton is also considerably less expensive than Thompson after signing a one-year deal in Golden State to play on the non-taxpayer midlevel exception (MLE) worth $12.8 million. Thompson earned $43 million last season in the final year of a $190 million contract before signing for three years and $50 million with the Dallas Mavericks this summer.

Buddy Hield Can Help Fill Warriors’ Offensive Gaps in Klay Thompson’s Absence

Buddy Hield

GettyBuddy Hield, formerly of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Melton may or may not start alongside Stephen Curry and will likely battle second-year player Brandin Podziemski for the role during training camp. Podziemski unseated Thompson from his starting job for a stretch last season on his way to earning First-Team All-Rookie honors.

The fourth member of the regular backcourt rotation figures to be Buddy Hield, who the Warriors inked in free agency and who finished last season as Melton’s teammate in Philadelphia. Hield is one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in the NBA, averaging 40.0% on 7.6 attempts and 15.5 points over his eight-year career.

Hield and Melton figure capable of reproducing Thompson’s 3-point shooting and point production in the aggregate next season, while Melton should exceed Thompson’s defensive production during the minutes in which he is on the floor.

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