Tristan Thompson carried the Cavaliers with 18 points on just 4 field goal attempts on Sunday. He led Cleveland with 13 rebounds, including 6 offensive boards. After Thompson’s huge game and LeBron James’ disappearing act, it’s time to ask if the Cleveland Cavaliers should trade LeBron James for some draft picks and build their franchise around Tristan Thompson.
At 26, Thompson is just coming into his prime. Both professionally and in his personal life. He averaged career-highs in blocks and field goal percentage this season. He tied for 5th in the NBA in offensive rebounds with 3.7 per game.
While talking heads continue to have the same tired debate about Michael Jordan and LeBron James, remember that when the Chicago Bulls hadn’t won a title in two seasons, they went and got Dennis Rodman and won the next three titles. Rodman, a 5-time NBA Champion, is the man whom Thompson modeled his game after. That’s the kind of mentality a city like Cleveland needs.
Thompson averages 9.2 points on just 7.2 field goal attempts in his career. In this series against the Boston Celtics and the top big man free agent of last summer, Al Horford, Thompson is averaging 15 points on 5.3 shots. He’s shooting 70 percent from the line this series and made 12 of 15 free throws on Sunday to keep the Cavaliers in the game while the Celtics went off from outside in the second half – a safe distance from Tristan Thompson. Just last week a huge profile came out about James’ struggles at the free throw line.
Like Rodman, Thompson is tireless. He missed just 6 games in his rookie year and then played all 82 games in each of the next four seasons. Only this year, under the influence of LeBron James and the NBA’s participation trophy players-need-rest culture did he take off four games. When you buy a ticket to a Cleveland Cavaliers game, you know you’re going to get to watch Tristan Thompson crash the glass for 30 minutes.
On the off chance Thompson does attempt a shot, it could be with either hand, just like LeBron. However, while LeBron James has a nice left hand, Tristan Thompson’s might be better. We can imagine what it would be like if LeBron played left-handed, but we know what Tristan Thompson can do. In 2012 Thompson made the All-Rookie team while literally shooting left-handed. LeBron James made a couple mid-range jumpers against the Raptors.
The Cavaliers are going to have some tough decisions to make this offseason.
LeBron James turns 33 next season and has a year left on his current contract. Thompson is locked up through 2020 and has played his entire career in Cleveland. There’s no reason to suspect he would ever leave. Besides, what player wouldn’t want to play with Tristan Thompson? You can have all the shots you want because Thompson doesn’t need ’em. Doesn’t want ’em. He’ll get his when the team needs it. And because of LeBron James, the Cavaliers need it now.