Tristan Thompson may have made the most eyebrow raising move this off-season as he done something that has never been done by a NBA player before. He switched from shooting with his left hand to his right hand. Thompson recently explained the move in an excellent piece by Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated “After a morning shootaround in Phoenix last November, while players iced ankles in the courtside seats at US Airways Centre, reserve guard Jeremy Pargo challenged Thompson to a shooting contest with their off hands. Thompson won so easily that Pargo told him afterward, “You should do this all the time. You look better. You look more natural. You’ll always be a solid player, but you could be an All-Star.” Thompson flashed back to those tens of thousands of jumpers. “But I’m left-handed,” he protested. “I got here left-handed, and I’m going to make it work left-handed.” This made a lot of sense at the time for Thompson as you work your whole life practicing shooting with one hand and then to change shooting hands when you finally make it to the big league is something unheard off. This shooting change will improve Thompson’s shooting percentage and along with improved defence under new Cavs Coach Mike Brown and improved rebounding will be why Tristan Thompson will win the Most Improved Player award this season.
Rise in shooting percentage:
In his rookie season, Thompson shoot a respectable 43% from the field and he bumped that average to 48% last season, so Thompson is bound to improve his shooting percentage even more this season. But as seen by Thompson’s shot chart from last season, majority of Thompson’s scores came from under the basket or just outside the key.
While it is good that Thompson has shown ability to score under the basket, after every shot he put up under the basket at the start of last season was being blocked, it is time for Thompson to add a mid-range jumper to his game.
Thompson likes to face up opponents on the block and take a little hook shot as he drives into the lane and he has shown that he is comfortable with that shot and it is go to move on offense. But as seen in this pre-season, Thompson now has been shooting mid range jumpers on his face-up and he has been hitting them. Thompson bumped up his shooting percentage to 52% this pre-season with the Cavs and he has been hitting mid range jumpers and even some outside jumpers at a consistent rate. Thompson also improved his terrible free throw shooting to 67% this pre-season, after only shooting 58% from the stripe in his first two seasons. Thompson’s switch to his right hand will improve both his field goal and free throw percentage, as he looks to become a reliable and effective offensive weapon with Cleveland.
Coming out of college, Thompson was known to have great defensive potential as he has great length, athleticism and quickness on the defensive end and he has proven he can be a good defender in the NBA. Thompson has been a decent post defender in his first two seasons and averaged just under one block per game last season. All of this was under Coach Bryon Scott, who isn’t known as a great defensive coach and now that the Cavs do have a great defensive coach in Mike Brown, Thompson will only improve his defence. As seen in the pre-season, Thompson is showing hard on pick and rolls forcing turnovers which lead to easy Cavalier points on the other end. Also Mike Brown is a massive fan of Thompson’s work ethic and tools he has on defence, as he recently said “He’s so athletic and so long, he can be one of the best in the league if not the best ever. The biggest thing he has is a work ethic. In order to be great, the game of basketball is not easy and you have to have the mindset you want to outwork your opponent. He’s got a lot in the tool package to be one of the best, if not the best, when it comes to defending the post, defending weak side, defending pick and roll. And if he switches onto a small, he has good enough feet to move his feet, keep the guy in front of him and not let him dribble drive by him.” Now saying that Thompson is going to be the best defensive player of all time is a bit of a stretch but Thompson does have all the tools to be a great defender under Mike Brown’s system and I see no reason why he won’t be.
Thompson has always been known as a great and energetic rebounder and along with a very similar teammate in Anderson Varejão; the Cavaliers have the chance to be one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA. Thompson averaged 9.4 rebounds last season, including averaging 10.9 rebounds a game in January last season. Of those 9.4 rebounds, 3.7 of them came on the offensive end, which lead to multiple second chance opportunities for the Cavs last season. Like his defence, Thompson’s work ethic is one of the main reasons he is a great rebounder but his energy and purist of the ball is another major reason Thompson is a great rebounder. Thompson’s energy catches most opponents off guard, as he never gives up on balls on rebounding opportunities and never stops his purist of the ball. Part of this energy and purist of the ball on rebounds has come from playing with Varejão, as he is one of, if not the, best rebounder in the league. Of course Anderson has been injury struck these last few seasons and will be playing on limited minutes this season, which will lead to more rebounding chances for Thompson. Along with his improved offensive game, Thompson is poised to be a double-double machine this season.
Tristan Thompson’s shooting hand switch has put him in the media spotlight which is a good thing as the league will now notice his improved offensive game, his great defensive work ethic and his great rebounding, along with the Cavs poised to be one of the league’s most improved teams this season, will lead to Thompson becoming this season’s Most Improved Player.