Certainly, the original decision was essentially a product of circumstance colliding full speed with default. Once Anderson Varejao is cleared to play, however, should the Cavaliers continue to deploy the somewhat undersized 21-year old athlete?
Admittedly frustrated by the complete lack of opportunism in his reserve big men, Byron Scott has opted to relegate Ryan Hollins back to the bench with Semih Erden falling out of the rotation completely. Scott has been a big fan of a small-ball lineup, one which features a 6-foot-9-inch Antawn Jamison as the tallest player on the floor. Alas, inserting a player of similar size but with the penchant for rebounds and blocked shots seems like a no-lose situation. At the very worst, Thompson provides determined rookie energy.
Naturally, Anderson Varejao is the king of all things hustle. And hair. His teammates qualify him as contagious, and it’s not far-fetched to envision at least a few more tallies in the Cavaliers’ win column had the Brazilian big man not sustained a broken wrist early February. The recipient of a four-to-six-week rehabilitation windown, Varejao has unfortunately blown through the “four” mark with the “six” quickly approaching, having missed the last 17 games. While getting Varejao back to 100 percent health should be one of the team’s biggest endeavors, Scott recently stated that he has no intentions of shutting Varejao down for the remainder of the season.
But should he?
Facing Thompson, Atlanta’s Zaza Pachulia, a true center was held to a 3-for-11 evening from the floor on Sunday, but amassed 12 rebounds and a blocked shot. The most recent fourth-overall pick is undeniably raw and could certainly stand to add a few pounds to his frame, but he has worked harder and longer than any member of the Wine and Gold over the last few weeks. On his 21st birthday late last week, Thompson was the last player to leave the shootaround floor, having clocked additional minutes to work on his offensive postgame. Later that evening, he and fellow rookie Kyrie Irving were the first to take the floor to get in even more practice time.
Thompson’s true position is the power forward spot. But with Byron Scott needing help down low, and Thompson facing a logjam of minutes at the ‘four,’ would playing out the rest of the season at center really be a bad idea? If anything, the next several games will be very telling, having to face Atlanta again this week with Dwight Howard and the Magic welcoming the Wine and Gold to Orlando on Friday.
Talk about baptism by fire.
Until Varejao is ready to return, Scott and his staff may not have a decision to make. Once this time comes, however, the team will once again have to walk the ever-precocious balance between short-term gains and the long-term future. If they opt to err towards the latter, the decision should be the status quo.