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Tristan Thompson shows continued development in game between Canada and Jamaica

Unfortunately there isn't a ton of basketball going on these days. Luckily one of the Cavaliers is playing basketball this summer giving us a sneak peek of things to come.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Tristan Thompson is not a perfect player. When he was drafted he was as raw as a player could be causing many to question whether or not the Cavaliers blew a top 4 pick in selecting him. While the jury is still out on what he will become in his NBA career the development we have seen up to this point has at the very least shown us he is trending in the right direction.

On Thursday night, Canada played Jamaica in the Jack Donohue Classic which ended with Canada walking away with a 81-72 victory. Canada looked like a team that had only spent 6 days together getting ready for the game (which was all they had). At the end of the day it was just an ugly exhibition game between two teams that didn't have their complete rosters on the floor. It did however give the first glimpse of Tristan Thompson and how he has progressed in this off-season.

It also gave me a chance to see Tristan face off against a former Cavs great.



Here are some of the observations I had while watching the game:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Tristan Thompson looks big. He might be wearing Kevlar under his warm ups</p>&mdash; Justin (@jrsuperstar11) <a href="">August 8, 2013</a></blockquote>

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  • Tristan looks BIG. His chest and lower body look considerably bigger than last time we saw him take the court. His shoulders looked far more defined. He also looked taller than the Orlando Magic's Andrew Nicholson (listed at 6'9).
  • The rumors are all true. Tristan Thompson is now right handed. When he put the ball on the floor it was with it was with his right hand. His "Mountie" floater shot was with his right hand. Free throws were with his right hand. Unfortunately he still dunks with two hands.
  • Tristan's new-found size has not affected his quickness or his rebounding. He was very active on the boards and created several second chance opportunities with tap outs and hustling for loose balls.
  • I saw a big time improvement tonight in Tristan's pick setting tonight. When he set screens for the point guard he was set better in a wider stance. He also stuck with the screen and rolled once the guard had actually used the screen. If he can continue to do this it will reduce the amount of instances where the point guard gets jammed up in the screen and is forced to back out or give up the ball. Unfortunately the ball didn't find it's way to Tristan when he rolled to the bucket.
  • His free throw shooting looked way more fluid than it did in his first two seasons with the Cavs. He went 0/2 in the game after taking a hard foul attempting a dunk on Samardo Samuels. But when he attempted his shots (one short, one long) his stroke was one fluid motion. There was no hitch and there was good arch on the shot. While the results were not there I finally saw for the first time a repeatable motion out of Tristan at the line. He never will become a consistent free throw shooter unless he developed a repeatable stroke so this is a major step in the right direction.
  • Tristan had trouble finishing from the floor as well. He went 2/9 during the game although one attempt looked more like a bobbled catch that was knocked away by a Jamacian defender.
While the numbers don't look great I actually felt he had a fairly decent game overall. I was actually impressed by a few things in Tristan's offensive game. When he was in the post he actually was incredibly decisive. Too often last year we would see him hesitate and kill the clock before deciding to give up the ball or force an awkward shot. On Thursday, he would catch the ball and immediately initiate contact. On several occasions, he put his shoulder into his man in order to create space for him to face the basket. From that position he either would find a cutting player or attack his man off the dribble and get into the lane. He missed a couple hook shots from the middle of the key where he would create contact and space with his inside shoulder.

I'm not too concerned about the results at this point. I just wanted to see there be a process rather than the random mess we have seen on offense out of Tristan in the past. The fact that he showed some post moves and they looked very impressive and fluid is a definite step in the right direction. I can see what the buzz was about this offseason. He's using his body to create high quality looks around the basket and continued to show that he is an underrated passer for a big man. He won't be asked to shoulder a large load offensively by the Cavaliers, but he's starting to show that he is capable of creating good shots if you get him the ball in the post. If he can finish these looks consistently it adds another dimension to a Cavs offense.

It may sound funny to be so optimistic after a 2 of 9 shooting performance. For those who have ever taken golf lessons you probably remember that one of the first things the pro does is break down your swing. You're shown where you need to bring the club relative to your body and given mental cues to help you develop a repeatable swing. You don't focus on where the ball is ending up you are just trying to get the motion down and once you have that you are able to focus on making contact with the ball and making a good shot. When I first started coaching high school basketball, I was assigned to work with the bigs as well as other players on working on their shots. We would start from just under the hoop and I would make sure their release point was in the proper place and that the shooting motion was correct. It was an absolute mess but eventually once the motion didn't seem as foreign they were able to shoot the ball with much more consistency. Seeing the post moves and more fluid release out of Tristan encouraged me because with that foundation I believe he will work on his game enough to develop those skills.

Here are a couple tweets from observers on his game last night:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Tristan Thompson intends to be the leader of this group and I&#39;ve seen lots of evidence of his leadership qualities tonight.</p>&mdash; Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) <a href="">August 9, 2013</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Tristan Thompson is strong as hell and the international game looks like it really suits him. He&#39;ll need to finish better though.</p>&mdash; Steven Loung (@loung_s) <a href="">August 9, 2013</a></blockquote>
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Canada and Jamaica face off again Saturday. I likely won't do another full write up but will definitely keep everyone posted on how Tristan preformed.