Tristan Thompson wants to be known as one of the most complete defenders in the NBA, not just a shot blocking big man.
It’s easy to point to Thompson’s rim protection as one of his bigger strengths defensively this season, as he’s averaging a career high 1.8 per game in that department. But the 6’9” power forward wants to be known as a complete defender.
With his 1.8 rejections per contest so far this season, he is currently tied for eighth in the entire association, along with Atlanta’s Dwight Howard, Houston‘s Clint Capela, and Toronto’s Lucas Nogueira. Previously, Thompson’s career high per game was 1.0 in his rookie season, but with Timofey Mozgov departing, the Cavaliers needed a rise in this area from Thompson, who now solely occupies the center position for the Wine and Gold starting unit.
Despite playing above the rim on a nightly basis, Thompson told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com that he wants to be known as not just a shot blocker, but a well rounded, versatile defender who can defend guards.
“I hope they start, like, giving some credit to guys that can guard guards,” he said. “I know that’s not a stat, but that should definitely count. Bigs switch onto a guard, you know, a lot of our guys do it. DeAndre‘s (Jordan) good at it, Anthony‘s good, Davis. So, myself, obviously.”
“So, hopefully I get some credit and … you guys don’t forget about me when it’s time to put that name on the ballot.”
Thompson prides himself on his ability to defend not just bigs, but much smaller players as well. He wants to be an All-NBA defender, and his numbers definitely support his claim. According to NBA.com/Stats, Thompson is holding opponents to 44% shooting from the field, including 50% shooting at the rim as well as 30.6% from downtown.
These numbers are phenomenal, and when considering Thompson is nowhere near the tallest or longest player at the center position, what he’s able to do defensively is outstanding.
Thompson has no problem in switching onto smaller guards, in fact, he relishes it.
“I take it as a real personal challenge in terms of guarding guys, especially guards, just because everyone thinks bigs cannot move their feet well,” Thompson said. “I try to stand up for the bigs across the world and take that challenge. Whenever you get a stop on a guard, especially a Hall of Famer or All-Star guard, you feel good about yourself.”
The Cavs ranked towards the bottom of team blocks per game last season with just 3.9, but with Thompson’s improvement in that area, the Cavaliers now find themselves in a healthy ninth position thanks to 5.3 blocks per game.
Although Thompson has taken it upon himself to improve in this respect, head coach Tyronn Lue has also been an influence, helping Thompson realize his potential as a rim protector.
“Last couple of years we just talked to (Thompson) about being a better rim protector and being in the right spots,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “Think this year he’s doing a great job of really using his – being help conscious and help oriented – using his 2.9 (seconds) in the lane to help protect and doing a great job of blocking shots and protecting the paint for us this year.”
When the Cavs are in tune defensively, they have one of the few elite defenses the league has to offer, and Thompson is a big part of that. His assault on both the offensive and defensive glass is incredible, and he continues to bring the energy on both ends of the floor. The Cavs always hang their hat on the defensive side of the ball, and Thompson is a main factor in why they rank among the game’s elite.
Look for Thompson to continue his impressive play, and for his name to pop up on an All-NBA defensive ballot by season’s end.