August 2, 2014

Front and Center: Bring Back Andy or Roll With Tristan?

Tristan Thompson, the starting center for your Cleveland Cavaliers.

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.

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I wouldn’t rush or maybe even bring Varejao back at all.  Let Thompson take his lumps and learn the game even if he’s playing out of position.  Then this summer he can bulk and muscle up while working on his game.  I think Thompson is destined to be a sixth man bringing the energy off the bench but will wait to see what he does next year.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I wouldn’t rush or maybe even bring Varejao back at all.  Let Thompson take his lumps and learn the game even if he’s playing out of position.  Then this summer he can bulk and muscle up while working on his game.  I think Thompson is destined to be a sixth man bringing the energy off the bench but will wait to see what he does next year.

  • Jaker

    Dont rush back Varejao, we’re not chasing a ring this year so lets not force him back. In regards to TT, hes only 20 and will get better with time, Playing Time, not bench time. PF or C it really doesn’t matter to me at this point, I just want to see him play cuz it will be a Win-Win for the Cavs if they do…

    Worst case scenario= Cavs play him at C and realize he will not work there because he does not have the size necessary for it defensively and is still raw on offense. Those flaws are used as speed bumps and we lose some games, resulting in a pick from 5-7 range.

    Best case scenario= TT seems like a natural C in Byron’s offense and develops enough awareness and strength(and an inch or two in the next few years) to become a good defender at both the 4+5 and remains a mainstay in Cleveland for a long time.

    … no matter what, TT is super young, super athletic and a giant ball of energy and rebounding. Add in some experience and he can become a good player in a year or two, when he will only be 21-22 years old and will have another Lotto pick to play alongside him and Kyrie.

  • http://twitter.com/GreatestHurley Jason Hurley

    I’m basically going to fall in line with the two comments above – if Varejao is ready, bring him back.  If he isn’t, let him heal.

    As for Thompson’s playing time – shouldn’t matter if it’s at 4 or 5, but you need to get him on the floor somehow.  The only way for him to learn and improve is to be tested, and he can’t do that from the bench. 

  • woofersus

    While they certainly aren’t going to risk Varejao for next year by rushing him back, the fact is that Scott still wants to win games, so when he’s ready he’ll play.  He’s our best center at the moment.  Thompson starting has less to do with future plans and everything to do with the fact that everybody else has been terrible at center since Varejao went down.  Thompson’s post game is fairly absent still but at least he fights for rebounds and will take a charge.

    Like it or not, Byron Scott seems allergic to the idea of not trying their absolute best to win.

  • http://twitter.com/GreatestHurley Jason Hurley

    I think it’s a great attitude to have.  Losing shouldn’t ever be a goal, especially if these guys are making millions of $$ a year.  I know it hurts our draft position, but these young guys should never accept failure.