Tbird 2011 NBA draft analysis #3: Tristan Thompson
Written by thunderbird1245
Today we dive back into the draft analysis for 2011 with a detailed breakdown of Texas forward Tristan Thompson. Previously for this draft we have looked at Colorado guard Alec Burks, and Washington State guard Klay Thompson, you can find those breakdowns elsewhere on this site if you have yet to read them.
Tristan Thompson has the measurables you’d look for in a pure “4″ man in today’s NBA. While slightly undersized height wise at 6’8 3/4″, he makes up for that with a wingspan near 7’2. With today’s game being more and more populated with smaller/quicker power forwards, that is plenty big enough for the position in its purest sense.
Ideally you’d get some positional flexibility with this position, either being big enough to slide over and play the “5″ defensively at times, or being able to be quick and svelte enough to* play some on the perimeter….but Thompson offers you neither, he is a pure PF, pure and simple.
Let’s start the inspection of “TT” with breaking down his defensive pros and cons first.
Thompson will bring some defensive skills to the table. He has a nice and low center of gravity, and has the requisite lower body strength and balance to not be backed down in the post. Thompson can hold his ground, and does a good job of establishing a base defensively and pushing guys slightly off their sweet spot.
When defending someone with the ball in the low post, he does a nice job of being physical, and in contesting the shot. Thompson isn’t a dominant shotblocker or great leaper, but he does elevate quickly off the ground, which bothers most post players and causes them to have to fade often when shooting, or at least makes them inaccurate. This is no small thing, I think it means that against most back to the basket players around his size, he will be able to play them one on one with no help.
He also works hard when he is faced up and driven. He has good balance here too, and moves his feet well. He couldnt stop elite NBA small forwards or anything, but he isn’t going to be beaten off the dribble very often by the men he will need to guard most of the time. I think he will be good on the screen/roll, giving whoever his NBA coach is some options on how to play that play, as he will be quick enough to hedge hard or even trap it on occasion if called upon to do so.
So Thompson has some good points defensively, but not all is well on this end of the floor.
In help situations away from the ball, he seems to me to drift and not really be aware of what is going on. Part of that is youth I know, but he does seem to be a guy who is very “man” oriented, and he loses track of where the ball is too often. He is not a weakside shotblocker, as he is too often out of position and too late to react in the painted area. I think he will improve in this as time goes on, so these aren’t dealbreakers per se.
However, his lack of hitting the defensive glass is. While his offensive rebounding is fine, he doesn’t hit the defensive glass well at all. He almost seems frozen at times as the ball is in flight, neither blocking out or following the ball’s trajectory to an open area. He has good hands and can snag the ball out of the air, so that is not the problem. Thompson jumps well and in fact gets up off the ground quickly and into the air quickly on the offensive end (usually the sign of a really good rebounder)….so the only conclusions one can draw here is that he is either lazy or just not focused on this part of his game…..for an NBA 1st round draft pick as a power forward to be a poor defensive rebounder, I’d say that is a problem.
Still, Thompson to me projects as a nice defensive power forward, particularly on the basketball, and he gives you a little bit of variety in how you can play certain matchups and situations.
Unfortunately, in basketball you have to play both ends, and Thompson right now is a poor offensive player.
Projecting ahead, I think he might end up being a decent screen/roll guy, as long as he can just roll right to the rim and catch a lob pass. At this point, anything beyond a dunk is outside his range….and he likely will never be a pick/pop guy. For reasons unknown Texas didnt use him that way very often, but I could see him being pretty good in those high ball screen situations that are so pervasive in today’s game.
With his back to the basket, Thompson basically has no moves. He seems like a kid who relied his entire life on being bigger and stronger than his opponents, and now that he reached the college level and that wasn’t always the case, he didn’t have the fundamental background to fall back on.
Being a lefty helps him in my eyes long term, but for now he really can’t make a solid move with any fluidity at all. Many left handed guys are very right shoulder oriented….Thompson is too to a degree, but even his best moves end up in wild and off balance spinning type shots that have very little chance to go in.
Against guys smaller than him, he can over power people and knock them over and score, like a bull in a china shop. But against people bigger than him or at least as athletic, Thompson is no threat to score at this point. His back to the basket game is very very poor at this point.
He does show some signs of being able to face up with a nice reverse pivot (AKA as the “Sikma” move), and a one dribble pull up game. But right now that has to end in a layup for it to work for him, as he can’t make the pullup over anyone at this point….he has no jump shot and no range. This lack of range kills him as a 10-15 feet baseline jumper guy, a shot that people these days just about have to be able to make. Right now, his jump shot and interior moves are almost like a turnover, making him a non threat unless he gets a transition opportunity.
He does run the floor well in transition, so that is a plus. And despite being a crappy defensive rebounder, he hits the offensive glass hard…..showing me that it is more an effort problem than skill problem in the defensive end. And because he drives hard and crashes into people, he gets to the line very well. Unfortunately he can’t hit free throws….under 50% last year, and watching him shoot you can see why. His release is all jacked up and will almost need to be totally rebuilt on the fly at the NBA level.
So offensively, he is a liability in just about every aspect. He has no moves with his back to the basket and is a poor jump shooter. I do see some possibilities and potential for him as an off the ball screener, and a transition rim runner, and maybe as an offensive rebounder……but he will never be a very good offensive player in my view, which to me means he is a career backup at the very best.
In reality, Thompson in my opinion should have stayed in school. To me he seems more like an athlete who plays basketball, and isn’t really a basketball player….if that makes sense. The idea solution to me for him is to go play in Europe, get great fundamental coaching for a couple of years, and then try and make an impact in the league when you actually can play, instead of what he is attempting to do now.
It to me is further proof of the weakness of this draft when he is considered to be a middle of the first round selection. Yes, I see the potential, but that is all he is at this point…..very little true abilities to play at this point. I can see gambling on a kid who is 7’2″ or something, but this kid is just another slightly undersized power forward with middling skills.
If I am the Pacers, I would pass on Thompson and not think twice about it.
I admit, his high draft stock has me puzzled a little bit. Who needs an undersized power forward who struggles to give effort on the defensive glass and who can’t shoot? I have no idea where he might go, I struggle to see a good fit for him. Maybe Pheonix at #13? Maybe Charlotte at #19? To me he is a second rounder, but obviously I am going to be wrong on this one.
Irregardless, I don’t think he will be our problem in Hoosierland…..I don’t see the Pacers choosing him, though I have been wrong before.
Current NBA comparable: I am struggling to come up with one. Probably someone similar to him on the end of someone’s bench somewhere.
Past NBA comparable: a very poor man’s version of Othella Harrington
As always, the above is just my opinion.