In an attempt to examine who’s better between Ray Allen and Klay Thompson, we understand that in NBA Victors are decided on the court, but one great joy of fandom outside the lines has no clear winner.
We love to weigh the merits of our favorite players against each other, and yet a taproom full of basketball fans can never unanimously agree on the GOAT.
In this series, we attempt to settle scores of NBA undercard debates — or at least give you fodder for your next “Who is better?” argument.
Ray Allen emerged as a go-to option for the Milwaukee Bucks in his second season, delivering 20-5-4 across all 82 games, and he made his final All-Star appearance for the Boston Celtics in 2011, the year before he lost his starting job and ultimately left to enjoy his final act as a role player on the Miami Heat.
From 1997-2011, Allen averaged 20.8 points (58 true shooting percentage), 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 combined blocks and steals in 37.5 minutes per game. In that 14-year span, his teams made eight playoff appearances, reaching three conference finals and two NBA Finals, including his 2008 title run. Allen missed the playoffs six times in Milwaukee and Seattle in his prime and lost in the first round twice.
During his 14-year prime, Allen averaged 19.4 points (59.2 TS%), 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 blocks/steals in 39.5 minutes over 110 playoff games for the Bucks, Celtics and Seattle SuperSonics.
Allen made Second Team All-NBA in 2005 and the Third Team in 2001, respectively finishing ninth and 11th in the MVP voting. Playing alongside All-Star teammate Glenn Robinson, Allen was the best player on a Bucks team that reached Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference finals. He played with one concurrent All-Star in just three of his first 11 seasons (Robinson twice and Rashard Lewis once) before joining future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Boston, where Allen was the third-best player on a title team.
Klay Thompson, similarly did not earn his first All-Star bid until his fourth year in the league, but by his sophomore season he had already become a top option on a team that reached the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. He may well still be in his prime at age 30 (Allen’s prime lasted through his 35th birthday), but we have yet to see him play since he tore his ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 Finals.
Let’s look at the stats below
From 2012 to the present, Thompson has averaged 20.3 points (57.7 TS%), 3.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 blocks/steals in 34.1 minutes per game. His Golden State Warriors made the playoffs each season until falling to the bottom of the lottery this year without him (and sans Splash Brother Stephen Curry for much of the season), winning three titles in five straight Finals trips. He has lost once in the first round in his prime.
Over the previous seven seasons, Thompson averaged 19.3 points (56 TS%), four rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 blocks/steals in 37.2 minutes across 123 playoff games for the Warriors.
Thompson made Third Team All-NBA in 2015 and 2016, and he earned his lone All-Defensive selection last season. His lone MVP vote was a fifth-place nod in 2015, when he placed 10th behind Curry during the first of his consecutive MVP campaigns. Thompson placed 11th in the 2018 Defensive Player of the Year voting. He has played with at least one other active All-Star in each of his seven prime seasons, at least two other All-Stars in four of those years and three other All-Stars twice (Curry, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant).
Depending on how you compare his impact to Green’s, Thompson was either the second- or third-best player on the 2015 title team and either the third- or fourth-best player on the 2017 and 2018 title teams.
This category is a little unfair to Thompson, since we know what Allen’s longevity looked like. We also do not know what Thompson’s impact would look like as a primary option, particularly in terms of team success and playmaking. As it is, even removing longevity from the equation, Allen’s advanced statistical résumé (19.5 player efficiency rating, .158 win shares per 48 minutes, 3.5 box plus-minus and 3.8 average value over replacement player) is more impressive than Thompson’s (16.5 PER, .116 WS/48, 0.9 BPM and 2.0 average VORP), giving him enough of a nod to overcome Thompson’s greater defensive contributions.
In all, Allen: two-time champion; 10-time All-Star; two-time All-NBA selection (2005 Second Team, 2001 Third Team); all-time leader in 3-point field goals; 1997 All-Rookie Second team selection; 2001 Three-Point Shootout champion; 2000 Olympic gold medalist; 1995 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year
Thompson: three-time champion; five-time All-Star; two-time Third Team All-NBA selection; 2019 All-Defensive Second Team selection; 2012 All-Rookie First Team selection; 2016 Three-Point Shootout champion; 2016 Olympic gold medalist; 2014 World Cup gold medalist