Cavaliers: Grading Tristan Thompson’s 2019-20 play thus far

Cleveland Cavaliers big Tristan Thompson handles the ball against Dallas Mavericks big Boban Marjanovic. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers big Tristan Thompson handles the ball against Dallas Mavericks big Boban Marjanovic. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson defends on-ball. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Taking a look at Thompson’s defensive play

On the defensive end, Thompson has been mostly healthy to this point this season, and it’s showed, as he’s again gone back to being his usual self.

He’s also been more than willing to take on challenges such as defending last season’s MVP in the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, and also another a typical true center, such as the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic.

Thompson has fared as well as anyone could’ve asked for in those primary matchups, too, and in post defense, TT has been solid, and he’s had a solid 0.9 blocks per game thus far.

For not necessarily a legitimate rim protector as a center that’s only 6-foot-9, that’s good, too, and with him being healthier, Thompson has switched out on to perimeter ball-handlers in pick-and-roll coverage pretty competently.

That’s always great to see from TT, and it’s also clear that when you watch games, TT is likely the Cavs’ best defensive communicator and his rotations are nearly always right on the mark. In addition, when it comes to ending out defensive possessions, Thompson has had a robust 6.2 defensive rebounds per contest.

With Love on the floor with him a bunch, and factoring in Drummond and Larry Nance Jr. more so post-deadline, that’s still a good defensive rebounding average, too.

Related Story. Grading Larry Nance Jr.'s 2019-20 play thus far. light

So what’s Thompson’s defensive grade to this point, then?

Thompson’s defensive grade thus far in 2019-20: A-

A defensive rating of 115.2 doesn’t indicate it, but Thompson has probably been the Cavaliers’ most valuable defender this season. He’s taken on very difficult matchups, and willingly, held his own admirably against often taller and even heavier 5’s, and has been arguably Cleveland’s best off-ball defender/rotator.

Plus, he’s been a workhorse switchout player for Cleveland, and has averaged a career-low 3.5 fouls per-36 minutes to this point. A full-out A would be stretch for quite frankly any Cavs defender in 2019-20, though, and while it was seemingly more on the Cavs’ coverage, you would maybe like to see TT switch out more so earlier on in the season than drop. His close outs on occasion, while not very often, can be a bit slower.

That’s probably not on him entirely, though, but overall, Thompson’s been excellent on defense.

Moving on, we’ll touch on Thompson’s overall play/grade thus far this season.