Today in Fear the Sword’s season hiatus player review series: Tristan Thompson. Follow the whole series here.
Cavs big man Tristan Thompson had a lot to prove heading into the 2019-20 NBA season. Just a year before, Thompson’s status as an iron man player was put into question, as the Canadian center only appeared in 43 contests. That, and his season felt like a fluke when he averaged career-best numbers at 10.9 points and 10.2 rebounds in only 27.9 minutes per game.
Well, by the time Cleveland’s season came to a halt, Thompson had done more than plenty to silence his doubters. In terms of health, Thompson sat out only 8 of 65 contests for the Cavs. He also proved his statistical production wasn’t an anomaly. In 30.2 minutes per game Thompson averaged a career-high 12.0 points per game on 51.2% shooting to go along with 10.1 rebounds per game.
It was clear four consecutive NBA Finals runs without rest ran their toll on Thompson, as this season he showcased boundless energy attacking the boards and on defense. Thompson also showed a new feature of his game as well, becoming a stretch five and connecting on 39.1% of his three-point attempts. He even drained a three-point attempt in Philadelphia before Ben Simmons!
Not only was Thompson a necessity on the floor for the Cavs, but he was invaluable off the floor as well. During training camp, Thompson was well-aware of the reality of Cleveland’s situation as a rebuilding team. Instead of running from it and immediately demanding a trade to a contender, Thompson embraced his younger teammates with open arms. Thompson knows the value of having a mentor, when he was a young player LeBron James became his, and wants to pass on the same mentality and beliefs that were taught to him to allow Cleveland to have a sustainable culture, per sources.
That legacy Thompson will leave behind is the most invaluable contribution the big man could have made for the Cavs this season. And it couldn’t come a moment sooner, as this season will be Thompson’s last in Cleveland. Thompson is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and asked Cleveland to try and move him at the deadline. The Cavs were unable to do so and it became even more clear Thompson’s time was done the moment the Cavs traded for Andre Drummond.
But, this doesn’t mean the Cavs and Thompson are departing on volatile terms. In fact, it couldn’t be any further from that. It’s just unfortunate he won’t be able to get a proper send off from Cleveland fans while he’s still in a Cavs uniform. Thankfully, this final season will a long-lasting legacy for him. When he hangs it up, Thompson will go down as one of the top fifteen players in the franchise’s history and his number will one day be hanging in the arena’s rafters.