A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ summer and the Tristan Thompson problem

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Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Kyrie Irving

Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Kyrie Irving (Photo credit: Erik Daniel Drost)

After Lebron left them for dead in 2010, the Cavaliers have spent the last 3 seasons going “full tank-tard”. The young talent on the team in Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller along with their pick of more draft talent this year, is worth it – But the Cavaliers need to start winning with Kyrie Irving next season. The hiring of Mike Brown is a good start, but aside from the draft, free agency will be key to making a leap forward.

A big name on the market this summer is PF Josh Smith. Paul Millsap is just behind him in impact. Pau Gasol may also hit the market, if as I expect the Lakers choose to dump his contract instead of amnestying Kobe, if committed to saving the up to 80 million in luxury tax payment.

An interesting question is whether Cleveland sees PF as a team need. I’ll call it the Tristan Thompson problem. Thompson is currently the starting PF for the Cavaliers and has been fine, but hardly exemplary. There is a fine line between confidence developing a prospect and overrating them, leading to making mistakes building around them. How clearly can the Cavaliers judge Thompson going forward? When a team picks a player top 5, largely that means they expect a decade long starter. By going out of their way to take Thompson that high, it’s fair to assume the Cavaliers have had expectations of Thompson as their long term starter a the position. Grabbing a player like Smith or Millsap, makes Thompson the 3rd big and reroutes that plan. This is no insult, as 3rd bigs like Taj Gibson, Amir Johnson, Nick Collison have had significant impacts in recent years. However if the Cavaliers can only see stardom in Thompson’s future, they may feel it’s unnecessary to spend cap assets on the position, when Thompson can replicate their production.

I do not how the Cavaliers see Thompson’s upside, or what their plans are this summer in regards to free agent targets. However if having eyes for Thompson at the position leads them to ignore PF as a target position this summer, I see it as a mistake. The Cavaliers can stand to make a big improvement at the PF position compared to what they got this year and if given the opportunity to grab an impact talent like Smith, Millsap, or Gasol, I see that as a key chance to upgrade the Kyrie Irving era. A lineup of something resembling Millsap, Varejao and Thompson as 3rd big in the frontcourt, is ready to go.

It will be interesting to see if Thompson plays into the Cavaliers’ decision making this summer.

Written by jr.

April 23, 2013 at 6:58 pm

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