OAKLAND -- When the Warriors broke up the Stephen Curry-Monta Ellis backcourt, it came after years of debate, discussion and a lot of disagreement.
In short, there were legitimate questions about their compatibility. And last March the Warriors came to the conclusion that a Curry-Ellis backcourt wouldn’t work and traded Ellis to Milwaukee in a deal for Andrew Bogut.
The Warriors did that for two reasons: They needed a center and they believed Klay Thompson could be the shooting guard of the future and the long-term backcourt partner of Curry.
So, here’s the question, and maybe you’ll think it’s premature. Are Curry and Thompson really compatible? Do they complement each other, do they make each other better and are they more of a solution going forward than problem?
Though Curry and Thompson have played just eight games together, some troubling signs are emerging. It’s not just that both players are off to bad starts. It’s that a closer look at their games raises some questions. Here are a few of them:
*** Thompson is a terrific shooter, particularly from 3-point range. It’s the strength of his game, and he’s a threat from anywhere on the perimeter.
But is that the kind of two guard you want playing with Curry, who isn’t a penetrator, isn’t really a slasher and doesn’t kick-out from the lane very often?
It’s fair to wonder whether Thompson can thrive in such a situation – with that kind of point guard.
*** Warriors coach Mark Jackson can talk all he wants about the defense of Curry and Thompson, and how both have improved. But they’re still not a good defensive backcourt.
Curry doesn’t have the lateral quickness of some point guards and doesn’t have the strength of others. Thompson certainly has size for his position, but he’s also got to get tougher and stronger.
Can both grow in this area? Of course they can. But out-defending another team’s backcourt on a consistent basis doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards for them.
*** Neither player is an above-average athlete for his position, and this manifests itself in a lack of easy buckets. There were certainly aspects of Ellis’ game to criticize, but the ability to get to the rim certainly wasn’t one of them.
In the open court, Ellis was fantastic and even in the halfcourt he would find ways to get into the lane and finish. He had the ability to get there with quickness, by contorting and sometimes simply by elevating.
*** You could make the case that Curry and Thompson have games that are too similar. The No. 1 strength of each player is outside shooting. That’s good, on the one hand, but it also means that there may be nights when neither shoots the ball particularly well.
That seems to be what’s happening now, with Curry shooting 37 percent from the field and Thompson 36 percent. Having a perimeter-shooting backcourt also means that you’re not going to get to the foul line consistently, let alone in abundance.
In some ways, you have two players who excel at coming off screens, but yet neither is overly adept at finding each other coming off screens.
There has been a lot of debate as to whether Curry is a point guard or not and whether that’s his best position. That’s irrelevant, though, because the Warriors have made it clear they believe he is. That $44 million contract will tell you that.
The real question moving forward is whether the Curry-Thompson backcourt can thrive together or whether it might have some of the same issues that a Curry-Ellis backcourt had.