When the Cleveland Cavaliers brought back big man Tristan Thompson via one-year, $3.2 million deal (with $200,000 guaranteed), it wasn’t a move that was going to send shockwaves out into the NBA universe. Thompson was signed for frontcourt depth and one would have to assume, added veteran leadership.
Thompson did not play in the regular season last year, prior to him playing a bit with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2023 Playoffs. In the preceding season, Thompson bounced around, and spent time with the Sacramento Kings, the Indiana Pacers briefly after the 2022 trade deadline, and after being waived, was with the Chicago Bulls the rest of that season.
Thompson is probably not in line to have a significant role with the Cavaliers this coming season, especially with the likes of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen in the fold. Cleveland did acquire big Damian Jones via trade from the Utah Jazz in July as well, for what it’s worth.
Those caveats aside, Thompson can still make a difference in rotational minutes for this Wine and Gold squad, with his energy, competent interior defense and screening. Realistically, though, with his heady play and veteran presence factored in, too, where Thompson can aid Cleveland still in a sizeable way in spurts is as a rebounder.
Thompson’s not going to be playing in nearly the role he had in his earlier days with the Cavaliers, either during the LeBron James Return or in his two ensuing seasons with Cleveland following James’ departure. Allen and Mobley are heavily in the fold, and Jones could be in line for some minutes as a 6-foot-11 interior presence as well, and Jones is younger than Thompson.
Even with those factors at play, Thompson has always been a high IQ big, and with Cleveland’s issues at times with defensive rebounding last season and in the playoffs, Thompson could be a logical option for the rotation. Cleveland was 20th in defensive rebounding percentage last season, and they were hammered on the offensive glass in their first round failure against Mitchell Robinson and the New York Knicks.
Thompson is third in Cavaliers team history in total rebounds, and for his career, he has snagged 21.6 percent of possible defensive rebounds in his minutes. His career per-36 minutes rebounding clip has been 11.3, for good measure.
Thompson’s rebounding positioning has always helped his teams over the years, and while he’s not the shot alterer Mobley and/or Allen are at this stage, he still is a valuable team defender, and in spurts, Cleveland shouldn’t be lacking much there. Thompson’s defensive communication should aid the Wine and Gold in that aspect and for rebounding efforts as well, and he is a far more disciplined defender than Jones, who has long had fouling trouble.
For his screening, relentless effort and great timing on the glass, however, Cavs fans shouldn’t be surprised if Thompson can firmly establish himself as a pretty regular contributor during this coming season with Cleveland once again.
Double T will turn 33 during the 2023-24 campaign, and he’s not going to have the role he once had with the Wine and Gold, but he can still give this team an on-floor leadership boost, excellent rebounding and reliable interior play in spurts. If he ends up making Jones expendable in the process, which would seem to be a good possibility by midseason anyway, so be it.