July 29, 2014

Welcome Back, Tristan Thompson

It seems like just last week when we were rolling out the red carpeted box score for first-overall selection Kyrie Irving. Missing three games thanks to a wayward Dwyane Wade kneecap, Irving returned with the vengence and consistency we have come to appreciate over the first two months of his rookie campaign.

The juxtaposition between he and fellow freshman Tristan Thompson — aside from the obvious polar opposite approach to on-court difference-making — had multiple folds. Irving’s injury didn’t exactly occur within the flow of the game; his head collided with Wade’s knee after a foul on the point guard’s way to the basket.  Once medically cleared, he was able to pick right up where he left off. Thompson had to take things at a slightly slower pace. His game, rooted in the two springboards which you or I would call “legs,” relies on one of the body parts he injured through the course of a contest. “Bouncey,” as he says.

Making matters a bit worse, Thompson rushed back, playing a handful of minutes in three more games before reaggavating his injury, forcing him to miss even more time. While you can’t exactly teach athleticism, you can force it to be harnessed out of caution and that’s an area where Thompson has been since his return. Tentative on offense, an area where he already has to work harder than most in order to contribute, the 6-foot-9-inch forward focused his impact on his core strengths: boards and blocks. 

But on Sunday night, in a the one-point win over the Sacramento Kings (one which Byron Scott deemed “lucky”), the ball finally fell in Thompson’s favor as he recorded 15 points (on 6-of-10 shooting) to go with his 12 rebounds (seven offensive), one steal and three blocked shots. The first double-double of his young career, Thompson was able to display his potential in a “remember me?” moment, one typically lost in the shadow of his running mate who continues to set Cleveland ablaze with his ever-improving point guard prowess.

There was not much to take from Friday night’s dismantling at the hands of the Miami Heat, but it was Thompson who came off of the bench and provided the energy that the Cavaliers would have hoped to had received from the entire 12-man unit. Finishing with 12 points, six boards and two blocked shots in 25 minutes of play, Thompson stayed active and aggressive; only he always-slashing Irving and Ramon Sessions took more free throw attempts than the fourth-overall selection. Often his nemesis, Thompson drained four of his five attempts from the charity stripe.

He would go on to get to the line six more times against the Kings, a game which came down to to free throws — one from teammate Alonzo Gee and two from Irving. One can even debate why it was not the shot-blocking, above-the-rim Thompson who would be given the assignment of guarding Sacramento’s center DeMarcus Cousins who would go on to put his team up by one point with six seconds remaining via an up-and-under lay-in which was met with nearly zero friction from Antawn Jamison. Irving would fortunately go on to render any decision-based discussion meaningless.

Thompson, thanks to the win, was understandably more jovial following this game. He would use phrases like “in my groove” to describe the growing confidence in his formerly sprained ankle. While you have a player who obviously gets excited when he pulls down an offensive rebound (as seen in his absurdly low 2.1 percent assist rate), you also have one who understands his limitations and doesn’t use game minutes to experiment. He knows that in order to stay on the floor, he has to focus his efforts on boards and blocks, extending plays and causing turnovers, being active through an entire possession despite the incredibly small chance that the ball ends up in his hands within the course of an actual half-court set.

It’s a bit more difficult to embrace the game of a guy who doesn’t drop 18 points per night or wow fans and ESPN producers with behind-the-back passes to All-Star teammates like wunderkind Ricky Rubio. All Thompson has been able to muster are rookie-leading averages in rebounds (5.5) while being second in blocked shots (1.3). A non-starter who can occasionally fall victim to foul trouble, Thompson’s box scores can certainly have lumpy outputs depending on the size and style of the opponent. At it’s core, Thompson’s game is rooted entirely in happenstance. Making the most of his opportunities, however, is what becomes the art.

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

  • pelliott

    Furthermore, square pegs in round holes in Sacramento, going back to my other argument against B Knight. Again, I like Knight but not with the Cavs right now.

  • mgbode

    well, not the top5 or 6 players in the league.  Knight was a backup for a decent portion of the season and his numbers are what they are.  he’s giving up allstar numbers ON AVERAGE to whoever he defends. that’s bad.

    he had a great game tonight though.  timely argument.

  • mgbode

    to both:   umm, that got a little out of hand fellas. 

  • mgbode

    we did not sign Shaq to a $20mil deal.  we traded for Shaq.

    we gave up a run-down Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic.

    Shaq was disappointing, but it’s not like we got hosed on the deal either.

    the sad thing is that we picked Shaq over Chandler according to reports.  oh, what could have been:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4285489

  • floydrubino

    You do realize that the pick was conditional and we aren’t even going to get it because sacramento had to make the playoffs to get it. We had a terrible draft for what we could have done. Thompson is average and when you pick in the top 5 you should find someone better than thompson. Then our 2nd round pick is just a wasted pick. If grant did it correctly we could have traded down our 1st pick take brandon knight or klay thompson and still have jj hickson. If we could have traded up a little we could take jajuan johnson late in the first with the picks we would have got trading down with our first pick. So we could have added jj hickson, brandon knight, jajuan johnson, and lost casspi and thompson. Grant blew it.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Yeah I’m done.  If you want the win floyd, you’ve got it.

  • floydrubino

    I know. I hate putting great players on the team. It is such a burden. Your square peg just put up 24 on us as a rookie.

  • floydrubino

    Timely argument or someone being astute. We both know I have won this argument in grandiose style. And how do you know which player he is taking when he plays with ben gordon and rodney stuckey. He is not the greatest defensive player but you make it out like he does nothing which is wrong. He struggles at times but what rookie doesn’t. Kyrie is awesome and I see him struggle sometimes. We should take a flier on joe alexander from west virginia from years ago. I heard he was in the hawks camp before the lockout. I wonder in the right situation if he could play well.

  • floydrubino

    done. lol

  • floydrubino

    We took on shaq’s final year of his contract for 20 million. If you are defending this trade at any level than that is weird because it might go down as the dumbest move of all time. Shaq made the league minimum for veteran players the very next year from boston and has made fun of cleveland publicly after we gave him this money.

  • mgbode

    it’s conditional, but we will get a 1st rounder likely at some point as it decreases in protection.  if not, then a 2nd rounder in 2017

  • mgbode

    he had 1 good game, let’s not get out of hand. 

    and i know because I have seen the Pistons play, not every team has a top5/6 NBA scorer as you mentioned, and he was a backup for a good amount of time (therefore playing other teams backups alot).

    like i said, he obviously has talent and can “get there” but you act like he’s there already and that is not the case.

  • floydrubino

    and this move was  shrewd. So it will be a second because if sacramento makes the playoffs it will be too high to even get the pick.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    “I have won the argument.”

    Make sure to pick up your prize on the way out.

  • Tim

    I dont care if it was weak draft or not… If you draft a guy at 4 then he better be a good/great scorer (TT is not and I dont see the offensive skill to think he will be). Guys who rebound and block shots can be found later in every draft.

  • mgbode

    who should we have taken?

  • mgbode

    what?

  • mgbode

    who cares how much Shaq made?  we only gave up Ben Wallace and Sasha.  it wasn’t a great move, but it wasn’t bad either.

    the poor decision part was valuing Shaq over Chandler who we apparently also might have had (not sure what we would have had to give up for him though)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Haha, it’s really hard not to get sucked in by him isn’t it?  It’s a never-ending loop of absurdity.

  • mgbode

    i’ll get him to concede on a point one of these days (like perhaps he’ll note that he was wrong when he said we signed Shaq to a $20mil deal).  or maybe not :)

  • Garry_Owen

    Wait.  There’s prizes??

  • Tim

    Brandon Knight (6-3 can absolutely play the 2 guard in our offense), Klay Thompson, MarShon Brooks, Markiff Morris… All are very good at doing the most important thing in basketball – putting the ball in the hoop.

    Yes, TT blocks shots. His blocks primarily come from the weakside as a help defender - he is too short to be a lock down post defender against most premier big men.

  • Tim

    And Iman Shumpert, good scorer and borderline lock-down defender. Its not like these guys would have more of a reach for Chris Grant than Thompson.