The man’s an expert on glass, and Thompson’s pursuit of extra possessions will likely get him the nod to play if Allen and/or Mobley is out, or if they get in foul trouble against proven opponents. All-time for the Wine and Gold, Thompson is second in total offensive rebounds and at 6-foot-9, 254 pounds, possesses a girthy body that delivers punishment each time he is boxes out. For his career, he recovers 17.6 percent of available rebounds.
As recently as the Lakers’ second-round series against the Golden State Warriors, Thompson defended well in drop coverage and double-teamed appropriately in his limited minutes.
He may be older than the frontcourt starters, but he’s stronger and wouldn’t get pushed around by New York’s Mitchell Robinson or as badly by Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. Thompson’s ability to protect the paint allows the big next to him to switch outside. This should allow him to be effective as well when the Cavaliers start mixing in zone coverages.
To be a successful defender, a player needs intelligence as much as his willingness to guard. Tristan Thompson has both, making him the type of player that can’t be exposed in certain coverages.
Additionally, Thompson has quick feet for a big and usually stays down when opponents try to pump fake. Smaller rivals on the perimeter sometimes struggle to gauge his 7-foot-1 reach, which causes misses or stops dribble penetration. Thompson should be able to harass weak ball handlers, assisting the Cleveland Cavaliers with forcing the opponent to play an outside-inside game, making the team’s paint protection look fiercer if less players are breaking inside.
Thompson getting moved to the perimeter on a switch could allow Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell to be hidden in the corners or on the other team’s least capable guard.