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Tristan Thompson to Start Over Anderson Varejao at Center?

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

When the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Kevin Love from Minnesota, it appeared Tristan Thompson would be headed to the bench for the 2014/15 season. It now appears that Head Coach David Blatt is considering starting Thompson at center and bringing Anderson Varejao off the bench. Thompson is not your prototypical NBA center at 6’9”; but most NBA teams have started to go the way of the smaller, more athletic centers. Contrary to common belief, there are only a few traditional 7’ centers in the league today. Thompson is an athletic big man and is a better shot blocker than most people give him credit for. What Thompson lacks in size he makes up for with athleticism, and while Anderson Varejao is two inches taller at 6’11” but is not a shot blocker.

{adinserter 2}Blatt started Thompson at center on Sunday night in the team’s first pre-season game versus Maccabi Tel Aviv – Blatt’s former team. In 19 minutes, Thompson was impressive putting up 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Varejao was also impressive in 17 minutes off of the bench scoring 6 points and grabbing a game high 15 rebounds. Thompson seemed to work very well with the starting unit and seems to know his role and what he needs to do to help the team. One big advantage to starting Thompson is it will enable coach Blatt to limit Varejao’s minutes in order to help keep him healthy for a full season. While neither player is a big offensive threat, Thompson has a bit of a stronger inside game and a few more post moves, whereas Varejao has better mid-range game. Neither are going to be asked to score. Their job is to play defense, crash the boards and executing their roles in Coach Blatt’s system; by doing so, each will have plenty of opportunities to score.

Last season, Thompson showed that he could hold his own while playing in the paint as a center during Varejao’s injury. It will be interesting to see how this develops as the two big men go forward in training camp and the preseason. If Thompson can play like he did in the first pre-season game, he will be just fine starting at the five; and Varejao can go back to his natural role of bringing the energy off of the bench.

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