Cleveland Cavaliers

Tristan Thompson's Development Has Been Instrumental in Cavs' Past Success

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 11:  Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives in the first half against JaVale McGee #34 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on January 11, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Ryan BothmannSenior Analyst IIJanuary 30, 2013

The Cleveland Cavaliers are getting better. Sure the Cavs are 13-33, but they have won four of their last six games and fans can tell how much better many of their players are getting.

The biggest growth out of all the Cavaliers has come from Tristan Thompson.

Thompson was a bit of a question mark when the Cavs took him out of Texas with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Many people thought Thompson had the potential to be very productive, but he had never really shown true dominance as a collegiate player. The Cavaliers appeared to be reaching and hoped that Thompson would develop into a solid post player in Cleveland.

Throughout his rookie season, Thompson showed flashes of brilliance. He recorded back to back double-doubles in February, and had a very good game against the formerly-known New Jersey Nets when he scored 27 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.

He's gotten even better in his second season in the NBA, but has exploded over the past couple of months. After his double-double in a loss to Golden State on Tuesday night, Thompson now has 17 double-doubles on the season. Seven of those have come in the month of January, and Thompson even had a stretch near the end of December where he recorded four straight games with a double-double.

In terms of just his scoring production, Thompson has scored in double digits in each of his last 13 games, and in 20 of his last 22 games dating back to December. His shooting percentage has also risen drastically. Last season Thompson shot 43.9 percent from the floor; this season, he is shooting 49.1 percent from the floor, and 52.2 percent in the month of January.

So why has Thompson gotten so much better?

It looks like it all has to do with his aggressiveness under the basket. Thompson is now ripping rebounds down with authority, controlling the paint and going after the basketball like he truly wants it rather than being passive like he was during parts of his rookie season.

This aggression in the paint has helped the defensive aspect of Thompson's game also. He has shown a better ability to block shots and make guards think twice before trying to drive the lane. Offensively, Thompson takes better shots when he has the ball in his hands, and has started to shoot with more and more confidence.

There is still much that Tristan Thompson can do to improve his game. The two biggest things he needs to work on are consistency and free-throw shooting. We have seen Thompson be very consistent throughout the month of January, but there were some instances back in early December where he was almost nonexistent on the court. Hopefully those instances do not return and he stays active in the paint on a regular basis.

In terms of free-throw shooting, Thompson shoots a very low line drive without a lot of success He's only shooting 63 percent from the charity stripe this season, though that is a significant improvement from the 55.2 percent he shot last year . Over his past five games, Thompson is a combined 9-of-10 at the line, so maybe he is improving in that aspect of the game as well.

It is no coincidence that as Tristan Thompson's game has improved, so have the Cavaliers as a whole. He is a key ingredient to the makeup of this basketball team, and if he continues to elevate his game, the Cavaliers could have a young force on the blocks to go along with their young superstar point guard Kyrie Irving.

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