Tristan Thompson Thrives Coming Off the Bench for Cavaliers

Tristan Thompson’s line from the New Jersey game- 9 points on 4 of 5 shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 fouls. In 17 minutes.

I was out yesterday, and so I caught the Browns game on the radio. When the Cavs tipped off I was trying to keep tabs on that game through my phone while listening to the Browns and trying not to completely ignore my family. Right before the Cavaliers went to halftime, I checked in and saw the boxscore. The Cavs were down six. I saw that Irving was leading the team in scoring, and then I looked for Tristan’s line. He had 4 points if I remember correctly, hadn’t missed a shot but had played only 5 minutes.

I was kind of curious about why Thompson would have such limited playing time. (My curiosity would only increase when reading about Coach Scott’s halftime rant about effort and energy.) In the second half, Thompson would not enter until 5 minutes were left in the third quarter. I took to twitter to find out if he had been hurt or if he had gotten in Scott’s doghouse. I was assured that he hadn’t been injured, and nobody seemed to know of any rift between him and coach.

Thompson would play 12 more minutes the rest of the game, and very productive ones at that.He finished the game with 17 minutes of floor time, which is exactly what he has played now in 3 of the Cavaliers 4 games.

During my twitter questioning, a follower suggested that Thompson should be starting. I thought about that and decided I would much rather have him coming off the bench. At least for now. I’ll explain why.

First, if you haven’t seen Kirk’s piece on Tristan from the weekend, you need to read it. In it he discusses why Tristan is turning out to be more than most thought he would be when the Cavs drafted him.

I would add that Tristan is in a perfect position right now. Normally, the fourth pick in the draft would be under a lot of pressure to produce for his team. With Kyrie Irving going to the Cavs in front of him, Thompson has been given a pass of sorts. He isn’t the one SportsCenter is looking for when they pick their 15 second highlight clips. Expectations were pretty low for him this season, at least by those outside the Cavaliers’ offices. He has to be gaining confidence with each passing game.

Coming off the bench, Tristan is able to provide an infusion of energy, especially on the defensive end. He is the best thing the Cavaliers have had on that bench since Andy Varejao was becoming a fan favorite with his energy and eagerness to get floor burns. I believe that coming off the bench is going to help Tristan develop the good habit of going hard every minute he is in the game.

With the season at 66 games long, we can easily break it down into thirds. Let’s leave Tristan coming off the bench for at least the first 22 games. The best case scenario is that Tristan forces Byron Scott’s hand by outstanding play. Until that happens, let’s just leave him where he is. His minutes could increase without being inserted into the starting line-up. Which may be the best thing for the rookie.

  • Harv 21

    [sorry for the re-post – didn’t know you would do a Tristan exclusive]

    Can’t stop being impressed with some of this kid’s qualities, especially the IRH (Innate Rebound Hunger). Coaches can scream for it all they want but that doesn’t work for long if at all. We now have 2 guys with it and the younger one can jump like a young Larry Nance. If he develops some pet moves on offense …

    The other thing I saw last was that he has a little temper. He was horse-collared hard on a dunk attempt, bricked the free throws but on the way down the floor was jawing back at whoever was giving it to him. Seconds later, ferocious block, jump hook on offense, and then dominating defense.

    The free throws look like a longer term issue. Saw him split a pair where the form looked fine, but then the next four after he was banged around left his hands at a faster speed and all missed. Guessing he’ll have to learn how to downshift his blood pressure quickly.

  • Your team leader in PER thus far: Tristan Thompson (20.2)

    I would largely expect a vast increase in his PT when/if Antawn gets moved.

  • TSR3000

    @Harv- well said. Love his motor. Love the demeanor of both rooks. Irv looks calm and in control and T2 looks hungry. Exactly what you want from their positions.

  • typo

    Not to get all bent out of shape over 2 wins, but playing jamison does absolutely nothing for us. He is better short term then TT but we don’t need better short term. I want to see us lose a lot of games this year while the rooks get better. I hope we trade jamison sooner then later.

  • christopher


    The catch 22 is that in order to trade Twan you have to play him in order to showcase he can still make an impact on a contender down the stretch/playoffs/finals.

    I think Rick made a good point in in a 66 game season slice it into 3rds, showcase Twan for 22, if you find a taker make the trade so T2 can take over from there.

  • Shamrock

    Seriously doubt anyone trades for Jamison which kills me to say since I was a huge proponent of his addition. Father time is cruel to athletes. As far as T-Squared goes he’s probably more of a surprise/impactful as Irving. When both of them bulk up and learn the game who knows. That being said the Cavaliers need one more “dynamic” youngster. Casspi is showing why Sacramento let him go.

  • Harv 21

    Casspi looks like he’s playing tentatively to me, not what you want in a scorer. Could be the new team/coach/teammates/system thing and he’ll be fine when he gets settled in. Or maybe Shamrock is right and Gee is going to grab that floor time he expected away from him. We’ll have a better idea about 30 games in.

  • christopher

    Can bieve I’m about to engage you in a conversation but will admit you have been much more even keeled as of late….


    Don’t forget Jamison is also an EC which can be coveted as well.

  • JM

    I know it’s early and I know they will lose their fair share of games, but this is becoming a fun team to watch.

  • Baclap

    I’m very happy about Tristan’s play but I’m even happier about his background and character. During the game Fred mentioned that TT spent a lot of time in Cleveland growing up and thought of it as a home away from home. Also, in an interview that WFNY linked to when TT was asked about coming off the bench he said he just wanted to win basketball games and that Coach Scott would put him in the best position for him to contribute. The Cavs aren’t getting anywhere soon but if we ever do get anywhere it’s going to be because we have level-headed guys on our team who want to be here. TT seems to be that kind of guy. Lord knows we don’t want to draft a guy like Cousins in Sacramento after what we just went through with LeBron.