Make no mistake about it: Tristan Thompson’s return to the Cleveland Cavaliers is a big deal. When he was a young player, he understood the importance of veterans in the locker room, and now as the elder statesman, it’s his responsibility to mentor, protect his contemporaries and produce when summoned.
“They’re the key to my growth,” Thompson answered to reporters in the locker room during his second season about his mentors, Anderson Varejão and Antawn Jamison. Going into the 2023-24 campaign, TT is one of nine Cavaliers to log more than 15,000 minutes in the regular season with the Wine and Gold.
I concur with Damian Lillard, who, on JJ Redick’s Old Man and The Three Podcast said, the lack of veterans in the league has created “a sense of entitlement.” It’s ironic that it’s coming from him, but the point still stands.
Kevin Love is not walking through that door. The Cavaliers needed another voice in the locker room who has been there, done that, and solidified himself as one of the organization’s greatest contributors. Thompson was the team’s starting center that reached four straight NBA Finals, winning in 2016 and last playoffs (2023), assisted the Los Angeles Lakers in a small role, averaging 5.3 minutes a night in six games.
The Cavaliers are set at center and power forward with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, but after them, the frontcourt is thin. Dean Wade is an outside big, Isaiah Mobley is a project, Damian Jones is an insurance policy, and Pete Nance is on an Exhibit 10 deal, a minimum salary with no compensation protection.
We’ll start with his efforts on the glass and team defense.