Cleveland Cavaliers big men Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov were key in the Cavs making a title run last season and now they've received some recognition for their efforts.
Sports Illustrated today released the first part of its 'Top 100 Players of 2016' rankings -- and both Thompson and Mozgov made the cut. Thompson came in at No. 70 - between Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce and Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside - while Mozgov came in at No. 68 behind the likes of Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic, Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons and Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza.
Thompson, who is still a restricted free agent, had the best season of his career for the Cavs last year. In 82 games - 15 of which were starts - he averaged 8.5 points and 8 rebounds per game. His numbers, though, don't fully explain how good Thompson has become. Primarily operating as the Cavs' first big off the bench, Thompson proved to be one of the NBA's best rebounders last season while playing the four or as a small-ball five. His rebounding - amongst other things - is why he's reportedly looking for the max.
Mozgov, who was acquired in a mid-season deal with the Denver Nuggets, was instrumental in the Cavs' defense improving over the second half of the season. With the Cavs, Mozgov played in 46 games and averaged 10.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He will be a free agent at the end of next season.
In a way, it's fitting that these two are so closely ranked. While Mozgov is the starter, Thompson often closed out games at center and the two played relatively similar minutes and locked down the middle for Cleveland.