Well we know who our head coach is moving forward. We know who has declared for the draft and probably can narrow it down to about 5 or 6 possible players the Cavs may pick depending on who's available and we'll be looking ahead to the draft lottery to see exactly where we will land. But while it's fun to look forward and imagine what could be I thought I would take some time and look back at this past year at one of the best stories the Cavs had all year and compare it to the rookie campaign of a player he will always be linked to in some way or another. I'll make it clear again that I will try keeping this as objective as possible and allow you guys to make up your own mind as to which you would have preferred or like more moving forward but just as a spoiler: They are both very good young players that are fun to watch.
Tristan Thompson (16.12 PER)
|2012-13 Regular Season||82||31.3||4.8-9.7||.488||0.0-0.0||.000||2.2-3.5||.608||9.4||1.3||0.9||0.7||2.9||1.5||11.7|
Jonas Valanciunas (15.62 PER)
|2012-13 Regular Season||62||23.9||3.3-5.9||.557||0.0-0.0||.000||2.4-3.0||.789||6.0||0.7||1.3||0.3||3.0||1.5||8.9|
Considering that it is generally accepted that big men take longer to progress and adjust to the NBA game these are some pretty good numbers in my humble opinion.
Now before I dive in to dissecting the numbers both these players put up this year I have to remind people that this is Tristan's second year and Jonas' first year. This was part of the decision making process when deciding which player to draft as it was fairly well known that Jonas would not be able to join the NBA team that drafted him the year he was drafted. They are the same age however so you would need to stomach a year with him not developing with the team. The other thing I must acknowledge is that both players play different positions. Jonas is a legit NBA center while Tristan is a slightly undersized power forward. What makes me feel like this comparison can be done though is due to the fact they are both paint players for the most part with Jonas actually being more of a "stretch" player than Tristan even though that designation is usually for power forwards. That being said both players bread and butter are located firmly in the paint.
One of the first things that might stick out when you look at the numbers these players put up this year is the higher Feild Goal and Free Throw percentage that Jonas has 56% and 79% respectively to Tristan's 49% and 61%. Jonas has a superior set of skills offensively and that is apparent right off the bat. He has range on his jump shot and that has translated to a high free throw percentage.
Here's how well Jonas shoots from range:
Shots 8 ft. > : 60.73% | Shots 8 - 16 ft. 42.51% | Shots 16 - 24 ft. 39.47%
Here are Tristan's numbers from the same distances
Shots 8 ft. > : 51.43% | Shots 8 - 16 ft. 40.65 % | Shots 16 - 24 ft. 27.27%
Both players get to the line about the same amount of times per game with Tristan at 3.5 FTA and Jonas at 3.0 FTA a game with Jonas obviously converting a much higher percentage of his chances from the charity stripe.
Tristan's shots at the rim have been effected by his habit of bringing the ball down before rising up. This resulted in the concerning trend of his shots at the rim getting blocked at an alarming rate. We've seen his FG% rise after a shaky start to this season that was very similar to last year which resulted in his FG% looking much better than it did last year. He struggled shooting 43.6% in November but after that point never shot below 45.9% for a month and shot as high as 52.6% in January. A lot of this improvement has come because he has added a quick hook shot to his arsenal that gives defenders less time to set up and contest/ block his shot. He also has reduced his hitch before going up and dunking and while he still can bring it down at times there has been a noticeable improvement in his offensive game and I think it would be a fair to assume that these numbers will continue to improve as he continues to work on his game.
What I've seen in Jonas' game this year has been an impressive increase in his confidence on the offensive side of the ball. To start off his rookie campaign he would primarily get the ball in two spots; the low block or at the top of the foul line. His foul line jumpers would be released the second they got out of his hand and didn't have the best arc and usually were a little too strong. While he would flash some dazzling post moves backing guys down he would rely on his off arm just a little too much and got called for offensive fouls. But I liked his strong moves at the rim and could tell once he started getting some respect he would be getting to the foul line a lot more. The turning point in his season actually came when he broke his shooting hand. He sat out just about a month and when he came back you could tell he benefited from his time watching the game. He utilizes pump fakes very well and reads how the defender is playing him. He likes catching the ball at about 15 feet and if the defender is playing off he lets the jumper go. If the defender rushes him he has a very quick first step that allows him to blow by his man and get to the rim for what is usually a hook shot in the paint. In the future he would benefit from taking it all the way to the rim and finishing with a dunk. He would also benefit from setting better screens. He tends to slip the screen before the guard has made his move which results in the screen being very ineffective and in a few cases resulted in moving screen fouls.
Tristan was an effective defender at times last year but had a long way to go become a consistent difference maker on that end of the floor. Apparently an off season was a long time for Tristan as he made some big time improvements this year. He no longer compromises his defensive position to go hunting for blocks. This has resulted in him picking up less fouls, staying on the floor as a result and being able to actually effect the shots of the man he's covering and not surrendering as many easy buckets because he cheated helping out on someone driving and leaving his man open. He does miss the odd rotation and can be caught out of position but nothing that isn't normal for a young big. It is a big step that is no longer gambling for blocks though as with him being undersized he's never going to be a "rim protector" like Dwight Howard or LARRY SANDERS! but he can still provide some blocks coupled with really being a solid defensive force changing shots and securing the rebounds.
Jonas on defense has struggled at times during this season. For the first half of the year he had trouble staying on the court has he had the tendency to hand check and struggled from a lot of the same size mismatches that gave our very own Tyler Zeller a lot of trouble. He's strong but doesn't have the leg strength or the mass to be a good defender at the center position yet. As it was with his offense his defense did improve after he came back from his hand injury. He wouldn't place his hand on the man backing him down and committed far less fouls. I don't think he'll ever be a great defender in this league but it won't be for lack of effort. He really works hard on defense but he doesn't seem to grasp the team defensive concepts and is often out of position. That being said I don't think he'll remain a defensive liability and his calling card is his offensive skills rather than being a defensive beast.
Intangibles / Rebounding:
Both players are pretty good rebounders. Tristan has been a very good offensive rebounder since he entered the league and this year he addressed the concerns some people had about his defensive rebounding numbers. His rebounding rate was 17.5 compared to Jonas' at 14.9. Tristan has very solid fundamentals when he rebounds while Jonas still has the tendency to only go up with one hand. This can lead to him getting a rebound but turning it over immediately as a result of him failing to secure the ball. Overall I think they are both very good rebounders but would give the edge to Tristan even considering the size he gives up to Jonas.
When I wrote a profile on these two players to start the season I cited a conversation that I had with a Raptors official within the organization in which they cited that Jonas seemed distant from the rest of the team and felt that the language barrier could play a role in limiting the amount of a leader he could become in the league as well as hurt how he gets along with the team. It appears as the season progressed that the passion he plays the game with has shown his team how much he cares and appears to be one of the tone setters on the club along with Amir Johnson. For a franchise that's been starved for guys with some form of character/ leadership his play sticks out and as his game has improved he's become more and more willing to speak out and his personality has really broken through. His English seems to be improving too. He calls himself out on bad shots and seems driven to succeed.
Tristan has really broken out this year as a leader on this young team. For a team without a lot of veteran leadership outside of the G.O.A.T. Luke Walton seeing Tristan step up to the plate has been a beautiful sight. His effort has not wavered at any point this season and constantly works his ass off on the court and speaks out to the media in a professional way to express what he feels and where he feels the team needs to go. He appears to have a fantastic work ethic and you see the fruits of that with the progress he has made on the court. Seeing him clown around with his teammates on media day, dancing at all star weekend and screaming after throwing the hammer down you can see the passion and great attitude he brings to the Cavaliers.
In my opinion both teams got the perfect player for them. Toronto is a immigrant heavy, international city and they got somebody that can provide offense for them that appeals to their international audience while the Cavaliers got a hard working, blue collar defensive force that doesn't need to be the focal point of the offense or have plays drawn up for him to make an impact to pair with their dynamic star point guard. While Tristan is a native of the greater Toronto area he has really embraced Cleveland as a second home and has invested in the community. I don't know if you could ask for a better fit for each team.