With less than two minutes to play Saturday night, Tristan Thompson soared to the rim on the defensive end at Quicken Loans Arena and showed everyone why the Cavaliers drafted him fourth overall two years ago.
It’s what Thompson has done at the rim on the offensive end that is frustrating.
Thompson remains a work in progress offensively. Despite devoting last summer to working on a mid-range jump shot, the results just aren’t there. Even worse, he has regressed around the basket, rendering most of his offensive game a disappointment as the season nears the quarter pole.
“I think he’s getting frustrated because he’s not scoring in the paint like he thinks he should,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “But again, as much as he’s worked on all the stuff on the offensive end, that’s not the reason we drafted him. We drafted him because of his energy and how hard he plays. I think sometimes he’s losing focus in that area because he’s focusing on trying to score.”
Thompson has been awful around the rim, converting just 48 of 82 opportunities inside 3 feet, according to the reputable website basketball-reference.com. That .585 shooting percentage around the rim ranks 85th in the league.
Thompson’s biggest problem is with blocks. Scott said he is spending too long gathering the ball, particularly after offensive rebounds, and by the time he’s ready to go back up, taller defenders are in position to swat it away.
The Cavs brought Zydrunas Ilgauskas into practice last week to work with Thompson, both to give him tips on his footwork and to give the Cavs an experienced 7-foot shot blocker for Thompson to work around in practice.
Since he is only 6-foot-9, Thompson will always be vulnerable to having his shots blocked by bigger defenders. That’s why Scott has urged him to pass the ball out of the post and reset the offense if he can’t immediately go back up with an offensive rebound.
Aside from the blocks, Thompson has missed plenty of wide open looks around the rim and concedes all the misses begin to weigh on him after awhile.
“You get frustrated as a player when you miss the chippies,” Thompson said. “I know I can finish. As a player, when you miss layups and 5-footers, you’re going to be frustrated.”
The Cavs understand it took Anderson Varejao about eight years to develop into the offensive force he is this season. They’re trying not to put any added pressure on Thompson offensively and want him to focus on defense, where he came up with a huge block on LaMarcus Aldridge in the final two minutes of Saturday’s loss in double overtime. He was whistled for a questionable goaltending a few minutes later and finished with just two rebounds after grabbing 15 the night before in a victory at Atlanta.
Thompson has studied other post players and how long it took them to develop offensive games. He said it took Chris Bosh three years to really develop an offensive arsenal after the Toronto Raptors selected him fourth overall in 2003, and it took Serge Ibaka four years after the Oklahoma City Thunder drafted him 24th overall in 2008.
Now Ibaka is .783 shooting percentage from 3 feet and ranks fifth in the league, while Bosh (.768) is seventh.
“I’m far from a finished product offensively. It’s going to take summers and years for me to get there,” Thompson said. “As long as I keep working and don’t get away from what got me here, I’ll be in pretty good shape.”
The Cavs aren’t putting any sort of timetable on Thompson’s development. As long as he continues to play hard on defense, rebound and maintains the same work ethic, they’ll take whatever he gives them on offense.
“I don’t know that there is [a timetable]. Everybody is different,” Scott said. “You have to keep teaching and keep helping as much as possible, and you know he’s going to keep working.
“Is that going to take effect by the middle of this season or the end of this season? Is it going to be two years from now? We don’t know. But we do know he has the type of work ethic that will make him a pretty damn good player.”
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.