Tristan Thompson featured in Grantland’s look at NBA big men

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Is it possible that Tristan Thompson’s best asset is being represented by LeBron James’ childhood friend Rich Paul? Consensus around the league (as iterated by Brian Windhorst in his latest appearance with Bill Simmons) is that Thompson, the Cavs’ starting power forward for the last three seasons, is in line for quite a pay day despite not showing flashes of being much more than a 10-point, 10-rebound player.

In his latest feature for Grantland.com, NBA writer Zach Lowe discusses Thompson as the archetype of players NBA front offices are moving away from—guys who don’t protect the rim defensively and cannot consistently hit mid-range jump shots or corner three-pointers.

The price of shooting at all positions has gone up. And one player type has become less and less desired, to the point it may already be a market inefficiency: the power forward who can’t shoot 3s and can’t protect the rim or provide real fill-in minutes at center.

There are good reasons behind the price drop. Protecting the rim is a necessity for any team with championship ambitions. If one big man can’t manage, the other has to carry the load, and real rim protectors tend to be large humans who hang near the rim on offense. That means any big man who can’t protect the rim defensively had better be able to get the hell out of the way on offense, working as a long-distance threat around the pick-and-rolls that dominate the NBA.

Lowe states that players like Thompson (and Denver’s Kenneth Faried) have a fit deemed “unclear.” Cavs general manager David Griffin has long discussed “fit” as a code-word way of describing an offense that incorporates ball movement and spacing of the floor. Thompson has thrived as a rim runner at times, and cold very well get plenty of open looks at the rim as double- and triple-teams find their way toward James and point guard Kyrie Irving, but this skill set (converting due to being open) is one that the Cavaliers will have to give thought to come contract time.

Add in that Thompson could very well be the back-up power forward behind Kevin Love, and things get that much more interesting.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

  • The Inferno

    Just don’t see it with him at all. And with Love (likely) in the fold, I just don’t see him ever being on the court in the final six minutes of any important game.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    He’ll become what he was always supposed to be: a bench player. Thompson has let me down the most the past few years really only one time did he show he might live up to the high draft pick used on him. Unfortunately he back slid and returned to his normal ways.

  • architrance

    So who would we rather keep? TT or Bennett? Ugh.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Thompson & his expiring contract although I have a feeling Bennett will one day be a decent PF in the NBA. My only question is when will one day be?

    Varejao’s expiring contract another one of those assets to keep in mind.

  • Harv 21

    Guy with such a limited skill set better only demand limited money on a team with suddenly serious cap issues. And if Tristan doesn’t get it, LeBron better tell Rich Paul it’s show business, not show friends. Everyone isn’t a max player, and certainly not a “energy” rotation big who doesn’t always manage to bring the energy.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    As soon as K-Love is around LBJ won’t have to think about TT as anything more then another guy off the bench.

  • Cynic

    TT’s always been humble, and rich paul has always conducted business professionally. All this speculation is media driven and overblown. The cavs can “take care” of tristan and rich by not letting him hit RFA giving him extra years with multiple player options once the new CBA kicks in, and writing in healthy “unlikely” (per CBA defn) perfomance incentives — all options that don’t involve overpaying on an annual basis. In the end, I can’t stand tristan’s game, but he’s still a great value right now, and I’m not going get worked up over what is currently a non-issue. If anything, i’m much more concerned about how dion’s 2nd contract negotiations go. I can see that getting ugly.

  • Harv 21

    agree that Dion negotiations could be nasty. He thinks he’s special (and might be right).

  • Randall Levin

    Take a look at that draft though. It kind of stunk. Aside from Valenciunas, who reportedly didn’t want to play in Cleveland, none of the other top 10 guys made sense for the Cavs. They knew the draft was weak and went for a guy they thought, based on metrics and athleticism, would be sure to stay in the league. His most likely outcome was always as a role player, and the Cavs knew that. That doesn’t necessarily mean bench player, by the way. Half of all NBA starters are really role players. So, if they thought he would be a regular rotation player who would rebound, generally defend well, and draw fouls, then they were exactly right. Not sure why he let you down. It sounds like you had unrealistic expectations. Sure, the Cavs weren’t going to hold a press conference and rave about drafting a role player, but they knew what they were getting.

  • Randall Levin

    Also want to point out that he still has not hit his prime, and will likely be improving over the next 3-5 years, even if only modestly. He is only 23 which means in addition to becoming a more savvy player, he will almost certainly gain strength without sacrificing athleticism for at least the next 3 years.