Tristan Thompson had a great season for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, but he did not win the NBA's award for Sixth Man of the Year. Instead, Toronto's Lou Williams took home the award. Thompson finished fifth.
The award generally goes to players who are able to provide scoring off the bench, and the top three in voting, shared below, certainly match that description. Thompson would have gone outside the norm. Despite serious strides offensively with the help of LeBron James and Kevin Love, Thompson still provides most of his impact with energy, defense and rebounding. Despite this, Justin made a case last week for why Thompson would have received his vote.
Specifically for Thompson, this season saw him start to fulfill the promise that his quick feet and strong build could lead to a solid defensive presence. He was versatile, and available. He played in all 82 games. He spent time guarding centers, and the Cavs tended to use him in late game situations to switch off on guards. Grantland's Zach Lowe gave him special mention for his All-Defense team.
Offensively, Thompson limited his game - with great results. He was incredibly effective finishing as the roll man. He developed great chemistry with LeBron James, and Matthew Dellavedova, and succeeded with buddy ball partner Kyrie Irving as well. The Cavs were a devastating offensive team all season, and Thompson put pressure on opposing bigs for offensive rebounds all season. No one in the league had a higher rate of contesting offensive rebounds.
Mark Jackson is literally correct that Tristan Thompson's pursuit of offensive rebounds is unmatched. Led league in % contesting OREBS— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) April 19, 2015
For Thompson, he can take solace in losing the award with the knowledge that he provides value in a few different ways. He's safely landed outside of the bust zone and will have a huge hand in whether or not the Cavs can pull off a championship.
For the season, Thompson was fourth on the Cavs in total minutes played. His true shooting rate jumped to a solid 58%. He had a slightly above average Player Efficiency Rating despite having a minuscule usage rate. He was an average rim protector when sampling power forwards and centers across the league. He added some things to the table without taking very much off of it. His biggest weakness, his inability to create offense or shoot, was covered up by the shooting of Kevin Love and his own willingness to ramp down his offensive game.
The winner, Lou Williams, was incredibly important to the Toronto Raptors while they dealt with injuries to Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. He had a Player Efficiency Rating of 19.9 and helped the Raptors to the NBA's fourth best offense. He had an efficient 56.6 true shooting rate and created his own offense. His winning the award makes a good amount of sense.
Top five Sixth Man Award vote-getters: Williams, Thomas, Crawford, Iguodala and Thompson. Mirotic No. 6.— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) April 20, 2015
Stats via basketball-reference.com