Charles Barkley Has Blunt Message for Klay Thompson and His Future With Warriors

Tuesday night may very well have marked a sputtering end to the Golden State Warriors as we’ve come to know them. They lost to the Sacramento Kings in the 9-10 matchup of the NBA play-in tournament, 118-94, which means Golden State’s season is over. The core of the dynasty was unable to beat the Kings, and it was never more obvious that they were losing their fight against Father Time.

Stephen Curry, who scored 50 points the last time he had a chance to send the Kings on vacation, managed only 22 on 8-of-16 shooting. Draymond Green actually had a decent statistical outing, finishing with 12 points, six assists, three rebounds, and two steals. But the Warriors were outscored by 22 points when he was on the floor. The most shocking performance came from Klay Thompson, who scored exactly zero points while missing 10 shots. He seemed aware that the last wisps of his greatness were dissipating before our very eyes and took a moment to take it all in upon leaving the court last night.

On Inside The NBA after the game, Charles Barklely spoke some harsh truth about Thompson and his future with the Warriors. The analyst bluntly stated that Golden State will have to think long and hard about bringing the franchise cornerstone back. Thompson is set to hit free agency this offseason.

It is impossible to disagree. Thompson was a shade of his former self this season, to the extent that he got benched for a stretch midseason. His counting stats are fine on the surface; the shooting guard averaged 17.9 points per game on 43.2% shooting from the floor. But for much of the year it seemed like Thompson was the only guy who didn’t know he wasn’t a superstar anymore. He actively damaged his team’s efforts to win by regularly trying to shoot himself out of slumps and he is no longer a plus defender.

Tuesday night was the strongest reminder yet that Thompson is far from his glory days. And, as Barkley notes, this is as good as he’ll be for the rest of his career. It’s literally all downhill from here. Which means the Warriors have no choice but to approach his free agency very carefully.

If Thompson still wants to be paid like the All-Star he once was, a divorce seems inevitable. Golden State’s cap sheet is jammed up with Curry’s gigantic deal and they already gave Green an extension. Even with the ability to move on from Chris Paul’s $30.8 million non-guaranteed contract they aren’t exactly flush with cash and the roster has a lot of holes to fill. The smart team-building move would be to let Thompson walk unless he’s willing to take a real discount.

That’s easier said than done, though. The death of a dynasty is always ugly and controversial decisions will be made. Can the Warriors muster up the courage to wave goodbye to one of the best players in franchise history and foundational piece of multiple championship teams? They’re surely hoping Thompson will make it easy on them and accept a cheap deal just to stay in the same uniform. But whatever loyalty he might have to the organization can fade quickly if another team comes in with a big offer.

What the Warriors do and how they handle it will be a matter of much fascination this offseason. It’s not often we watch the end of an all-time great run play out in real time. At this stage, though, it seems more likely than ever Thompson will be wearing a different uniform next season.

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