7 players the Cleveland Cavaliers held onto for way too long

Antawn Jamison, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Antawn Jamison, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images /
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Cleveland Cavaliers
Tristan Thompson, Indiana Pacers. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images /

No. 2: Tristan Thompson

Speaking of themes, there will be one with the last two players on this list. Similarly to Antawn Jamison earlier, the Cavaliers transitioned into a post-LeBron era but refused to move on from their veterans. J.R. Smith essentially forced his way out, and Ty Lue did the same, but Tristan Thompson stuck around for a bit.

Thompson was a key member of the Cavaliers’ run to the NBA Finals for four consecutive years, serving as a versatile big both in the starting lineup and coming off of the bench. It’s no surprise that the team was reluctant to move on from him when LeBron left for the Lakers. Thompson was also clearly not convinced the team was rebuilding, famously boasting prior to the 2018-19 NBA season that “We’re still four-time Eastern Conference champions, so until you take us down from that, teams ain’t got much to say.”

The problem, of course, was that no team needed to “take them down” because the Cavs won just 19 games that season, and wouldn’t win more than 22 for another pair of years. Thompson’s brand of rebounding and defense wasn’t needed on a team playing for lottery balls, which is what the Cavs became that year.

Thompson had real trade value heading into that season, in large part because of his role on those Eastern Conference goliaths. The Cavs kept Thompson around for two seasons in the wilderness, however, and got nothing for him as he signed with the Boston Celtics in free agency. If they had moved much more quickly, they likely get real assets back for Thompson as they started their rebuild.