Off of a dominant Eastern Conference run in the spring o f 2015, Tristan Thompson and his reps decided he was a max player. The Rich Paul group tried to hold the Cavs hostage until they surveyed the landscape and finally figured out no one was going to leverage their roster so Thompson could get a fatter payday, one he didn’t deserve. The Paul group came down to earth a little and settled on a $82 million dollar deal which would keep the Toronto native in a Cavs uniform until the end of LeBron James career (if LeBron doesn’t bolt back to Miami first).
Make no mistake, $82 mil was a grotesque amount of money for a player whose career highs are 9.7 points and 8.5 rebounds. Three out of his five NBA seasons, Thompson has averaged less than thirty minutes a game. This season, he scored 9 points or less 50 times. But he had 10+ rebounds 43 times.
Thompson is a specialist, a nose for the ball rebounder with innate instincts around the rim. Most of what he does will never find its way to a boxscore. They are the details that in the last five minutes win the game or lose the game: boxing out, offensive boards, rotating to the weak side, shot blocking, hustle, fire, intensity, will.
Once the Cavs decided to go small and start Thompson at center, they ran amok in the Eastern Conference, like a bully in a crowd of scared 10 year-olds, though Thompson had some hiccups. Bismack Biyombo’s 40 rebounds in two games was totally on Thompson.
From last year to this year, Thompson had a consistent regular season. 54.7% shooting last year was 58.8% this year. 8.0 rebounds last year was 9.0 rebounds this year. 0.7 blocks last year was 0.6 blocks this year. 8.5 points last year was 7.8 points this year.
In the playoffs is where Tristan Thompson has been a mess and has fallen way off. 55.8% shooting last playoffs is a mediocre 42.6% this playoffs. He is rebounding less, by more than two. 10.8 in 2015. 8.4 in 2016. His blocks are down and his playoff scoring has dropped from 9.6 to 5.4.
|2015-16 Regular Season||58.8%||9.0||0.6|
In the two games of the Finals, he is shooting 42% with 8.5 rebounds. Last year in the Finals he shot 50% with a dominant 13 rebounds. He is playing worse. He is not a $82 million dollar player. He can’t compete when the Warriors trot out seven footer Aussie Andrew Bogut. Tristan Thompson small is way too small.
Tonight, the most important game of the Cavs season, Thompson has to have an epic performance. Thompson is no different than the rest of the Cavs. They have been kept in check by the Warriors swarming defense of quick hands and bodies. Thompson was outrebounded in game two by Steph Curry. That is a humiliating stat. Furthermore, in game 2, the Cavs missed 51 shots. They had 9 offensive rebounds off of those misses, 17.6%. Of the 51 missed shots, Thompson pulled in 3. It was Tristan Thompson, the ghost, who showed up in Oakland in game 2.
When you sign a paycheck that will give a player three quarters of a $100 million, you expect effort and hustle and toughness. The irony of the Thompson signing, nine months later, is that his minutes may be limited. He played 19 minutes on Sunday. He played less minutes than Kevin Love who had to leave the game because of a concussion. Thompson is too small when the Warriors go big. He is too limited to keep on the floor because he can’t make shots at a consistent clip.
Thompson has to play big tonight. But the Cavs best hopes may be Thompson on the bench.
photo via llananba