The Emergence of Tristan Thompson
*Photo via Getty Images
The Cleveland Cavaliers will represent the Eastern Conference in the 2015 NBA Finals after dominating the Atlanta Hawks 4-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. During the postgame press conference, J.R. Smith, in typical J.R. Smith fashion, took a selfie at the podium. Joining Smith with podium games was LeBron James (of course) and Tristan Thompson (wait, this guy?). No not that guy, this guy!
The rise of Tristan Thompson this postseason has been meteoric. The fourth overall pick in the 2011 Draft was thrust into the starting lineup during the second round versus the Chicago Bulls and hasn’t looked back. But what’s different this year?
As a starter for the 33-49 Cavs in 2013-14, Thompson was third in points per game (11.7) for players who played more than 50 games for Cleveland. But, as a Power Forward, Thompson only shot 47.7 percent from the field.
Enter in LeBron and Kevin Love, and Thompson’s role significantly changed this season. With fewer shots, Thompson became more efficient and slightly altered his shot distribution with the increase in dump offs from teammates and points off offensive boards.
Thompson's Shot Chart for 2013-2014 Thompson's Shot Chart for 2014-2015
With the injury to Love, Thompson has been forced back into the starting role. These playoffs he’s shooting close to 60 percent while playing eight more minutes than he did in the regular season.
Thompson's Shot Chart against the Bulls this postseason Thompson's Shot Chart against the Hawks this postseason
The bottom line is, Thompson is not relied upon to score, but he is making the most of his opportunities by taking, and making shots around the basket.
In the regular season, players defended by Thompson shot 47 percent from the field. But in the playoffs, Thompson has stepped up his game. Thompson is playing excellent defense, allowing players to shoot a mere 39.7 percent from the field. Just ask Kent Bazemore about Thompson’s improved defense.
This postseason, Cleveland’s defensive rating is third out of all playoff teams and has the better rating when compared to Golden State. With Love on the floor, Cleveland allowed 103.1 points per 100 possessions, with Thompson, Cleveland’s defense allows 98.6 points per 100 possessions.
Now you may not have noticed the subtle changes in Thompson’s shooting or his defense, but you definitely noticed the man cleaning the glass. Tristan Thompson is a beast on the boards and the numbers back it up.
During the postseason Thompson is averaging 9.9 rebounds per game, with four of those coming on the offensive glass. Out of players who have played more than 5 playoff games, Thompson ranks as the top offensive rebounder this postseason. Okay, he gets rebounds, so what? Cleveland scores 2.2 points per possession when Thompson pulls down an offensive rebound, which leads to 8.8 second-chance points per game.
Thompson also collects 16.1 percent of all available rebounds while he is in the game. The man can flat out rebound the basketball.
Before the start of the 2014-15 season, Cleveland offered Thompson a 4-year, $52 million extension, which he rejected. With steady improvements in offense and defense, Tristan Thompson has emerged as a vital player during Cleveland’s domination of the Eastern Conference and has set himself up to pull down some major dollars along with all those rebounds.