Report: Klay Thompson may indeed be willing to take mid-level exception to join Lakers or Clippers

Jesse Cinquini
7 Min Read
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

An update from Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports should have fans of the Los Angeles Lakers excited about the team’s chances of landing Klay Thompson through the mid-level exception this offseason.

“And it’s shaping to be a fascinating mid-level market, especially with word circulating among league personnel that Thompson could be willing to take that amount in order to join the Lakers or [Los Angeles] Clippers,” Fischer wrote. “That would be a steep drop from the two-year, roughly $50 million offer Thompson declined at the start of this past season. He remains on the list of secondary wing options for Philly should [Paul] George spurn the [Philadelphia] Sixers, sources said. Dallas appears to be the one of, if not the strongest suitors for Thompson, sources said.”

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin recently cited Thompson as one of a few players — along with James Harden and Jonas Valanciunas — that LeBron James would seemingly take a pay cut for this summer.

“[Rich] Paul said James would be willing to work with the Lakers on signing a deal below the maximum three-year, $162 million he is eligible for to open up the full $12.9 million mid-level exception to sign an ‘impact player,’” McMenamin wrote.

“The type of player that James would be willing to make a financial sacrifice for would be an established veteran playmaker like James Harden or Klay Thompson, or an established big man to play alongside Anthony Davis — like Jonas Valančiūnas, sources told ESPN.

“If the Lakers are unable to entice a player of that ilk to come to L.A. for the MLE, James will seek the max, Paul told ESPN.

“James can only have so much patience in working with the Lakers on his next deal, however. Team USA’s training camp to prepare for this summer’s Paris Olympics begins in a week in Las Vegas. Paul told ESPN that he will look to complete a deal with the Lakers for James before Team USA camp opens up.”

It’s also worth noting that The Athletic’s Jovan Buha reported that it’s unlikely that the Lakers will acquire a third star via trade.

For Los Angeles, perhaps adding a big name through a sign-and-trade is more likely than doing so through a traditional trade. The Warriors and Thompson reportedly could work together on a sign-and-trade.

Of course, a conventional signing is certainly a viable route for the Lakers if and when they try to add help this offseason.

“The Lakers landing a third star in a deal appears unlikely, barring an unforeseen one secretly becoming available,” Buha wrote, referencing the trade market specifically. “Donovan Mitchell is reportedly likely to sign a contract extension with Cleveland, which would rule him out. Trae Young’s switch from Klutch Sports to CAA also makes a trade to the Lakers less likely, as The Athletic previously reported. Dejounte Murray is now in New Orleans and off the board. Perhaps Darius Garland becomes available, but he’s a clear step down from the Mitchell and Young tier of stars.

“Still, there are good options potentially out there. Wings such as Portland’s Jerami Grant, former Lakers player Kyle Kuzma and the [Brooklyn] Nets’ duo of Dorian Finney-Smith and Cam Johnson are expected to be available on the trade market, according to league sources. They aren’t the biggest needle-movers, but any of those four players would enhance the Lakers’ perimeter defense, frontcourt size and/or floor spacing. Grant, for his part, would check each of those boxes; he’s quietly shot 40-plus percent on 3s in back-to-back seasons in Portland.”

Thompson — a five-time All-Star and four-time NBA champion — has spent the entirety of his pro career with the Warriors. He appeared in 77 of Golden State’s 82 games during the 2023-24 regular season and averaged 17.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 turnovers per game.

The 34-year-old’s most valuable skill is his ability to space the floor and do damage from beyond the 3-point arc. On a high volume of attempts (9.0 per game), Thompson buried 38.7 percent of his shots from deep a season ago. It wasn’t even a great season for him in that regard — for his career, he’s a 41.3 percent shooter from deep.

Thompson made the most of his opportunities to score at the free-throw line in the 2023-24 season, shooting a league-high 92.7 percent from the charity stripe, even if he got himself to the line just 1.8 times per game.

But Thompson’s defensive effectiveness has debatably taken a dip in recent years. Earlier on in his career, he was widely regarded as one of the NBA’s top perimeter defenders and even earned a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team in the 2018-19 campaign after averaging 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per contest.

However, in his 11th season playing for Golden State, the former Washington State University standout averaged just 0.6 steals and 0.5 blocks per game.

Also, when the Warriors needed a win over the Sacramento Kings in the play-in tournament in order to keep their 2023-24 season alive, Thompson simply couldn’t find the bottom of the net. In a game the Warriors lost by a whopping 24 points, Thompson didn’t score and missed every one of his 10 shots from the field, six of which were 3-point attempts.

He’ll look to bounce back from that in the 2024-25 season, no matter where he’s playing.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer covering the Lakers’ dreaded rivals, the Boston Celtics, for SB Nation. He has also covered the New York Knicks for The Knicks Wall.