The Cleveland Cavaliers are on a mission this season: to make the playoffs. This is a mandate that has clearly permeated down through the organization. From the hiring of a strong, defensive coach, to the reports that the Cavs didn't see any rookie in the draft class as a starter. Clearly, Dan Gilbert is ready for the team to start winning again. Some of the moves made this offseason are prime examples of the Cavs' objectives. For example, picking upJarrett Jack spoke volumes for Cleveland's desire to replace our sub-par bench last year with quality NBA role players.
However, we all know that our free agent acquisitions aren't going to be what puts the Cavaliers over the top (barring Andrew Bynum playing like it was 2011). For the Cavs to truly make the playoffs, and possibly even make some noise in the playoffs, we are going to need significant improvements from our young core. Tristan, Kyrie, Dion, and possibly even Zeller all need to continue to build on the positive skills that they have displayed in the past two seasons. Given that, I wanted to create a series of FanPosts that look at what we can or should expect to see from each player next year. First was Dion Waiters. Next is Tristan Thompson.
Tristan may just be everyone's favorite Cavalier. He is one of the most dedicated and hardest workers on the team. Mike Brown, no rookie when it comes to hard working basketball players, has even stated that Tristan is one of the hardest workers he's ever seen. This, along with the growth in TT's game last season when Varejao went down, should signal that the big (and possibly getting bigger) man will be ready to make some noise next season.
The first thing that should be mentioned about Tristan is something that has been widely reported: TT may undergo the unprecedented move of switching hands on his jumper, from left to right. We really have no idea how this will affect Tristan's game, other than hope that his free throw percentage can't get much worse than the 55% he put up his rookie year. By several accounts, TT's shot looks more fluid and natural. Seeing as there is almost no basis for this switch, there's no way to tell what will come from the switch or what it might lead to during the season. However, I have no doubts that Tristan will be ready to play when the season starts, due to his determination and effort.
Last season, Tristan averaged 11.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg, and 0.9 bpg. He shot 49% from the field, with a 16.1 PER and playing (and starting) all 82 games. However, his season statistics don't tell the full story of his season. Anderson Varejao went down with his injury on December 18th. From January on, Tristan averaged 13.3 ppg and 10.0 rpg, shooting 49% with an 18.0 PER (h/t to laughingcavs.com). These numbers are a pretty significant difference from his stats before the injury--before Varejao's injury, Thompson was averaging 9.2 ppg. I really can't speak for Tristan's defense, as I don't get to watch many Cavs games, but by all accounts he was very good. Per 82games.com, our offense was a bit worse without him on floor, as was our defense.
The big question here is what does this all mean? It's pretty great that as a 2nd year player, TT essentially averaged a double-double. However, what I'm sure we all want to see is more growth. To gain some perspective, I looked at the seasons of several other 2nd year players. I'll focus on the player that we all want Tristan to become: Al Horford.
In Horford's second season, he put up some comparable numbers to TT. Horford averaged 11.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.5 bpg, and, impressively, 2.4 apg. Horford shot 53% from the field, 73% from the line, and had a PER of 17. Clearly, Horford's numbers are a bit more impressive than Tristan's, but not quite out of his league. One area where Tristan is significantly better than Al is offensive rebounding, where TT had almost double the rebounding percentage. While Horford was obviously ahead in terms of offensive development, Tristan hasn't been left in the dust.
Horford's next season is where he began to demonstrate his All-NBA abilities. In his 3rd year, Horford put up an efficient 14.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.1 bpg on 55% shooting from the field. I think that next year will be crucial for Tristan's development. Will he make another jump--possibly spurred on by his switching hands--or will he end up making the standard improvements that another year in the NBA brings? Will he be more DeAndre Jordan or Al Horford? The things that I'm looking for out of Tristan next year are simple: better shooting at the free throw line, maybe another reliable post move or two, the makings of a jumper, and some more blocks while not sacrificing his post defense.
My expectations for Tristan are simple: anywhere from 13-15 ppg (depending on the health of Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum), 10 rpg, 2 apg, and some more great defense. We know he's going to work hard; now let's see all that hard work pay off.