Player preview: Tristan Thompson
Why did I pick Tristan Thompson before those remaining?
Because Tristan Thompson has displayed a greater combination of talent, potential for improvement and ability to stay on the floor than anyone else remaining. He led the team in minutes last year, and was able to produce at a high level with those minutes. If he does have the ability to play some minutes at Center, he will be even more valuable. Toss in the possibility that he might be able to hit a mid-range jumper with his latent sweet stroke, and he was an easy pick as the second most valuable Cavalier.
What does Tristan Thompson bring to the team this year?
Tristan Thompson was a fascinating draft pick before he switched his shooting hand and grew two inches. He was the rare high draft pick who didn’t have a clear, elite skill. He is very athletic, and he is an elite offensive rebounder, but it usually takes someone telling you that someone is a good offensive rebounder for you to notice. He might become a great defensive player and maybe even a very good offensive player, but it’s still hard to identify one thing that makes Tristan Thompson the second most valuable player on a team that hopes to make the playoffs. That’s because there isn’t just one thing. Thompson isn’t a guy who will score thirty, but he doesn’t commit a ton of turnovers, shoots a pretty good percentage and he creates extra possessions. He might not block shots at an extremely high rate, but he is a plus defender. It’s his intangibles that make him so incredibly valuable to this team. Thompson is the hardest worker on the team, he’s durable, he’s an excellent leader, and he contributes every night on the floor. He may develop into a great rim protector and finisher on offense, but with the incredible work ethic and improvement we have already seen out of Thompson, it is safe to say we have a keeper.
Thompson’s offensive game improved immensely last year over a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign. He took more shots while improving his shooting percentages (except for his 3pt %, which is still a disappointing .000) and used his athleticism to create decent looks for himself. I love it when Tristan faces up on his opponent, decides which direction to go, takes two quick steps and then elevates for a nice look from about six feet. It’s just pure athleticism, and the guy guarding Tristan usually looks nervous when he understands what’s about to happen.
Tristan’s hand change is obviously interesting, but even if this doesn’t result in him being a knockdown shooter, it’s hard to see him regressing on offense given the time we know he’s put in this offseason.
His rebounding is excellent and his post defense is coming along nicely. He’s the quintessential glue guy for a young team trying to come into its own. He may not get a ton of attention from the national media, but his ability to contribute in a dozen different ways will be absolutely vital to our chances this year.
What is Tristan Thompson’s long-term potential with the Cavaliers?
Tristan Thompson is above average at just about everything he does, but not really excellent at anything except offensive rebounding. I would not be surprised in the least if he becomes an excellent defender and rebounder, but what if his hand switch really does add a level to his offensive game? He can already score in double digits using hustle and athletic isolation plays like the one mentioned above. But if you add a dependable jumper? Thompson becomes that much more valuable for a team with good attacking guards, not to mention the fact that if teams have to respect his jumper, he should have more opportunities to drive himself.
I’m also not ruling out the possibility that Thompson will become a good shot-blocker under Mike Brown’s tutelage.
What’s the bottom line for Thompson? I think we can confidently say that he will play dependable defense, grab a ton of rebounds and play his part in the offense. If he doesn’t add the shooting, shot blocking and the ability to play center that I speculated about above, I’m not sure he’ll ever be an All Star, but he will be a key cog for the Cavaliers for years to come. If he does add those things? I think he will be a legitimately great player.
Either way, everyone loves Tristan, as they should.