The case for and against the Orlando Magic signing Klay Thompson

The rumor mill has been spinning Klay Thompson in the Orlando Magic's direction since the winter. Is Thompson the shooter the Magic should pursue?
Klay Thompson has long been connected to the Orlando Magic because of the Magic's obvious need for shooting. Thompson would undoubtedly bring that. But on the back end of his career, is he the right player to add to this group?
Klay Thompson has long been connected to the Orlando Magic because of the Magic's obvious need for shooting. Thompson would undoubtedly bring that. But on the back end of his career, is he the right player to add to this group? / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

Sometimes the math feels simple. Almost too simple.

The Orlando Magic are a team that desperately needs shooting. They are a team that has desperately needed shooting for nearly a decade. It is the clearest thing missing from the equation to give Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner the space to create.

It is not even necessarily about making shots. As Jeff Weltman pointed out during the team's exit interviews the day after their Game 7 loss, the Magic finished 15th in the league in 3-point field goal percentage after Jan. 1 at 36.3 percent and were still 21st in offensive rating (112.9 offensive rating) during that time.

The perception of a team's shooting matters to create space as much as anything else. Teams were not afraid of the Magic making enough threes to hurt them. They did not have someone who consistently required attention —Jalen Suggs had not earned that respect yet despite his strong shooting season.

The Magic need to make shots. But they also need the perception of making shots. That is why so much attention this offseason has centered on established shooters like Malik Monk or D'Angelo Russell.

The big fish is still swimming out there. Someone who has the reputation of being one of the best shooters of all time. He is available, is seemingly ready to switch teams and could be the kind of good locker room presence that elevates the team.

Klay Thompson is a free agent. He did not come to a new agreement with the Golden State Warriors (at least not yet) and appears to want more than the tax-burdened Warriors want to pay.

Ever since this became clear back in February, there has been a lot of dot-connecting pointing Thompson the Magic's way.

Who could blame them? Thompson is one of the all-time greatest shooters. And even in the twilight of his prime and coming off his major injuries, Thompson can still shoot. He still has tons of gravity. And he would easily be the best shooter the Magic have had at any point on their roster since Rashard Lewis or J.J. Redick.

It has been easy to dismiss the thought of adding Thompson as nothing more than posturing by an agent looking to maximize their client's next big payday. The Magic need shooting and Thompson is one of the best of all time to do that.

The question is whether Thompson is indeed the right fit for the Magic. Is his shooting enough to make it worth the considerable cost? And can Thompson still do enough to be valuable to the Magic?

The case for signing Klay Thompson

The case in favor of Klay Thompson joining the Orlando Magic is an incredibly simple one. He is still one of the best shooters in the league. Even if his percentages are down, Thompson has defense-warping shooting abilities.

Last year, Thompson averaged 17.9 points per game and shot 38.7 percent on 9.0 3-point attempts per game. He had a 55.1 percent effective field goal percentage and 57.6 percent true shooting percentage.

He made 38.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes.

The case for signing Klay Thompson is about his shooting. He is someone defenses have to respect by reputation—and he can still get hot from deep with 13 games hitting more than five threes last year.

He had 35 games of 10 or more 3-point attempts alone. Orlando had 11 such games total during the regular season.

Considering the Magic had only one player who took more than five threes per game and had the second-fewest 3-point attempts per game in the league, even having that boost from Thompson would be huge.

There might be more to these numbers and some concerns to get to. But Thompson would even at this base level give the Magic an element to their offense that they were missing.

That includes his shooting from mid-range where he made 44.8 percent of his shots and scored 8.1 movement points per 75 possessions and a league-leading 6.4 points off screens per 75 possessions. Thompsons is not just a standstill shooter obviously. He is someone who can get his feet set and score as long as you can get him the ball -- another element the Magic are missing.

The whole of attraction from Thompson is his shooting. That is the one thing that has not gone away. Or gone away to a level that would not impact the Magic.

The case against signing Klay Thompson

The main attraction to Klay Thompson is his shooting. That is the whole reason that he has been connected to the Orlando Magic this entire season. It is a simple math equation—the Magic need shooting, Klay Thompson is a shooter so the two should meet up.

Thompson would still be an impactful shooter. But there is also no doubt that Thompson is starting to tail off.

This is not just about a 0-for-10 showing in the Golden State Warriors' Play-In Tournament loss to the Sacramento Kings. Thompson saw his percentages drop across the board.

Overall his 38.7-percent 3-point shooting was just the second time in his career he shot worse than 40 percent from three. And those two instances have occurred in the last three seasons.

His 38.4 percent shooting on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers put him in just the 68th percentile in the league. He was at 41.4 percent in the 2023 season. He made 40.5 percent of his corner threes in 2023 compared to 35.7 percent in 2024.

Thompson is not going to get a ton of open threes. His skill is his ability to hit contested shots. He does not need a lot of space to get his shot off.

But it is also becoming clear that Thompson is on the back end of his career. He will turn 35 next February. And his age—including the lingering hamstring and ACL injury that has slowed him down since the 2019 NBA Finals—is starting to show (in fairness to him, he played in 69 and 77 games the last two years).

Thompson was an All-Defensive player in 2019 and was considered one of the best defenders in the league throughout much of his prime. But that defense has slipped considerably too.

Last year, the Warriors had a 116.1 defensive rating with Thompson on the floor, trailing only Andrew Wiggins for the worst mark on the team. That was 1.6 points per 100 possessions worse than the Warriors' overall average.

In 2023, the Warriors had a 112.6 defensive rating with Thompson on the floor. That was 0.8 points per 100 possessions better than the team's average.

The slippage speaks to Golden State's overall defensive slippage and the team's changing roster. But the question will be whether Thompson can regain his defensive mobility and do it in a new system with new teammates.

Perhaps Thompson knows this and knows he would fit in better with an established defensive team like the Magic.

But Thompson's skill set beyond his shooting and defense is limited. He is not much of a playmaker, averaging 2.3 assists per game last year (his career average). So if his shooting and defense are deteriorating, the window to be successful with Thompson is narrow.

Klay Thompson is seeking one last big payday

And that brings everything to the most important part of analyzing a potential acquisition of Klay Thompson.

For someone who has spent 13 seasons all with one franchise, it would take a lot for him to leave. It does not really seem like Thompson wants to leave but he is looking for one last payday.

But Golden State is balking at the price tag. He is surely not expecting the $43.2 million salary he made in 2023. Like Draymond Green, the Warriors are hoping to get him on a reduced salary (Green signed a four-year, $100 million contract). Golden State is trying to reduce its tax bill significantly.

That has led to this impasse pushing Thompson away from the team where he has played his entire career and won four championships.

It has been hard to get a sense of how much teams are going to pay to add Thompson and whether the Warriors will not just get there and retain this legacy player.

Eric Pincus of Bleacher/Report projected Thompson signing a three-year, $81.9 million contract. Bobby Marks of ESPN has Thompson signing a two-year, $70 million. That is one person pegging Thompson at an annual salary of $27 million compared to $35 million. That is a wide range (both likely outside the range Golden State is willing to pay).

So the question is are the Magic willing to pay that? And then how long are they willing to commit to Thompson?

At this point, you are paying Thompson for past production not for his future. His skills are seemingly clearly declining. And that is the big question the Magic have to ask themselves. Are they the ones to wring out the last bits of Thompson?

Ultimately this is the question: Do the Magic feel Thompson can still shoot and they can get the most of his shooting to impact their offense? Thompson's presence will always increase the team's spacing because Thompson has the reputation of being such a great shooter.

His reputation will precede him on the court.

Much like with Paul George, adding a player like Klay Thompson feels like the piece that puts you over the top. It is a short-term move because Thompson does not have many years left playing at a high level—and certainly playing at the salary slot he will fill.

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Orlando's window to win is much wider than that.