The expectations for Tristan Thompson were set in training camp when coach Byron Scott made it clear he believed Thompson could average a double-double in this his second season. Thompson isn’t there yet, but if the last four games are any indication, he’s starting to figure it out.
Thompson had 14 points and 14 rebounds in the Cavs’ victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday. It marked his third consecutive game with a double-double and would’ve counted as his fourth, but he fell one rebound shy in a loss at Toronto last week. He still has a ways to go to catch Anderson Varejao’s streak earlier this season of 10 consecutive games with a double-double, but it’s a start.
Thompson is still a wreck at times offensively, but he is clearly buying into Scott’s constant reminders that the Cavs drafted him not for his offense, but his defense and rebounding.
“When you say double-double to a lot of people, their expectations are you’re going to throw him the ball a bunch of times, he’s going to bet a bunch of post-ups and a bunch of jump shots,” Scott said. “That’s not necessarily the way it is. My expectations for him is to average a double-double, but by offensive rebounding and running the floor. He’s getting putbacks, he’s getting around the basket where he’s getting dish-offs from Kyrie and things like that. It’s no different than what Andy [Varejao] is doing, Andy is just doing it at an unbelievable clip right now.”
Thompson appears to be more focused and aggressive on the defensive end and rebounding. He has worked with Zydrunas Ilgauskas in recent weeks on offensive moves around the basket and has tried posting players up more during games. Ilgauskas’ time to work with Thompson is limited now, however, because his primary role is in the front office and he’s out scouting college players.
Thompson has also worked with assistant coach Jamahl Mosley on keeping the ball over his head and going straight back up with it after grabbing offensive rebounds in an effort to reduce the number of shots he has blocked.
Thompson’s natural habit is to grab the rebound, take it low to gather himself and then go back up. It has led to a barrage of blocked shots and difficulty shooting around the rim.
Thompson is converting less than 58 percent of his shots from within 3 feet, and he ranks in the top 10 for most shots blocked in the league.
“When you’re younger, you’re always stronger than guys or you’re taller and can jump higher than guys. You’re able to load up, but not in this league,” Thompson said. “This game is about inches and seconds. The quicker you can get the ball up at the rim helps you from getting shots blocked.”
Thompson has filled in admirably while Varejao has missed time with a bruised knee, averaging 11.8 points and 12 rebounds over his last four games while splitting time at forward and center. Those are the type of numbers Scott has expected all along, although Thompson is only averaging around 8.5 points and 8.1 rebounds for the season.
There are lofty expectations that come with being the fourth overall pick in the draft. To many fans, Thompson hasn’t lived up to them because of his offensive inefficiencies.
“I don’t worry what everyone says,” Thompson said. “They probably said the same thing about [Joakim] Noah and David West and all those bigs. More times than not, bigs take longer to develop. For guards, it’s right away, score the ball and play defense. Bigs have to learn defensive coverages, learn how to guard guys, rotations, show (in pick-and-roll defense), block shots and communicate. It’s a lot of stuff to be a big in this league. It’s a process, and as long as I continue to work hard, things will play out.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.