After LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers following the 2010 NBA season, the team understandably went into a tailspin finishing the season with just a 19-63 record. There wasn’t much to be excited about that year; the fan base was in shambles from losing the best player in the league that they affectionately referred to as “King James,” but there was a glimmer of hope. The Cavs held the first and fourth picks of the 2011 NBA draft, which they used to select one of the best point guards in the league to this day, Kyrie Irving, at number one along with a young, athletic big out of Texas named Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick. While Kyrie got all the media attention, TT continued to improve into a double-double threat every time he stepped out onto the court. Following his rookie year, Thompson never missed a game over the next four seasons and he was proving to be a valuable player on the roster with his effort and tenacious rebounding ability.
When LeBron came back to Cleveland for the ‘14-‘15 season, Thompson was just hitting his stride into becoming a more efficient and effective role player. His field goal percentage jumped from .477 in 2014 to .547 his first year with King James in 2015 to .588 in 2016. Couple with his efficiency, elite rebounding skill and his ability to dunk seemingly any alley-oop floated his way and he became an invaluable piece of four-straight finals teams. Without Thompson, it is kind of hard to imagine the Cavaliers coming back from down 3-1 in the 2016 NBA Finals. His consistent effort and dirty work in the post didn’t go unnoticed. Instead, it will always make him a fan-favorite in Cleveland along with everyone else who played a key role in ending the championship drought.
Following the LeBron era, TT stayed loyal to the Cavs and he even posted arguably the best two seasons of his career the past two seasons. Injuries have held him back a bit, but he was always willing to be a leader for the young, rebuilding Cavs in recent years. With him moving on to the Boston Celtics after signing a two-year deal worth $19 million dollars, it was likely a mutual decision and a bittersweet ending to his time in Cleveland. However, he left the roster in a better spot than it was a couple years ago and he is a big part of the growth of some of the younger players on the team.
With Thompson now out of the fold, the Cavs are left with a solid rotation of bigs still led by Andre Drummond and Kevin Love. With them being the likely starters barring a signing or trade, their backups are likely to be Larry Nance Jr. others. The Cavs guards are lead by their two former top-10 picks, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. The team’s success hinges heavily on the improvement of the two young guards and it is likely that the team will go as far as they take them. Dante Exum will handle the bulk of the backup duties.
On the wing, the Cavs roster gets a bit more complicated. Assuming Kevin Porter Jr. isn’t in prison for the start of the new season, he will play a large role for the team. He showed plenty of potential last year, but he has to stay out of trouble. The Cavs had the 5th pick in this year’s NBA Draft and they selected Isaac Okoro, who is an uber-athletic wing that can flat out defend, so he’s going to get plenty of playtime. One thing to watch for the season will be the progression of Okoro’s jumper because if it improves, the Cavs might have struck gold. Cedi Osman and Alonzo McKinney will be returning as well and will likely have a spot in the rotation. The Cavs are hoping to finally get 2019 1st round pick Dylan Windler involved as he is healthy and returning back from injury. Hopefully, he will be a nice offensive upgrade to give the team a respectable shooter off the bench. Hopefully the Cavs can bring in a nice guard or wing to take Thompson’s roster spot and the team should reasonably be able to compete for a playoff spot!
The team is in a great spot and TT is in large part to thank for that.
Speaking for the entire CST team and all Cleveland Cavaliers fans, thank you Tristan Thompson! Thank you for all the love you have shown the city of Cleveland over the past nine years. Thank you for your hard work and blue-collar style of play that encapsulated the city on the court as well as for your efforts to give back to the community off the court. Thank you for playing your heart out every night without complaints regardless of your role or team success. And most of all, thank you for being an integral part of the 2016 NBA Finals Champion Cleveland Cavaliers that brought the city a championship and overwhelming pride for the first time in 52 years. We will miss you so much, TT, and we will always be grateful for your time as a Cleveland Cavalier.