Getting to know Tristan…by the numbers

I admittedly haven’t been following our new boy Tristan Thompson all season so I decided to take a deeper look into the numbers of this past season.  I tried to sort through all of the games vs the Rices and Sam Houstons of the world so I broke down some stats to see how Tristan stacked up against the ranked teams the Longhorns took on and included some games against potential NBA big men.  It boiled down to 16 games of the season that included ranked teams they played against and I also looked into the two Baylor games and their 2 NCAA tournament games.  It’s a small sample size but this is what I found. First, his bread and butter, defense.

The numbers back up the draftniks’ claim that this guy can come in and contribute right away on the defensive end.  In these games Tristan would’ve been matched up with the most potent front line scorer the opposing team had.  In most cases he was giving some height, in some cases as much as 3-4 inches.  Still his opposition was held 2 full pts per game below their season averages but more impressively they were held to just over 37% from the field.  A few noteworthy performances on the defensive end were his harrassing Derrick Williams into a 4-14 performance in the 2nd Round of the NCAA tournament.  That also included a blocked shot (one of four on the night) on Williams with a lead and 14 secs left that appeared to have sealed a Longhorn victory.  That is assuming they could inbound the ball in the ensuing possession, which they didn’t.  Williams came back and hit a miracle shot for the win. Another solid night was vs the Morris twins.  The twins combined to score 26 points (5 below their combined average) and shot a combined 8-24.  Clearly they were effected by Thompson patrolling down low as he also had 5 blocks that night.  In their second game against the Jayhawks, Thompson played only 11 minutes due to foul trouble and the twins were much more effective.  They went on to score 31 pts combined and shot 66% from the field and Texas lost.  

Tristan vs Perry Jones

This is one of the reasons I wanted to look back at Tristan’s work this season.  Perry Jones would’ve been a sure fire top 5 pick this year if he came out.  I saw early mocks that had him going #1. Wherever he would have gone he would have been rated higher than Thompson by every expert imaginable.  I wanted to see how Thompson stacked up.  To my chagrin, he won the battle decidedly in both games.  Baylor seemed to come to a consensus as well.  After the 1st game Baylor coach Scott Drew said ” I thought Tristan was a monster today.”  After the 2nd game Big 12 career scoring leader, LaceDarius Dunn said, you guessed it, “he’s just a monster.”  Truth is he did play like a monster.  Against the blue chip NBA prospect with worlds of upside.  In the 2 games combined Perry Jones stat line was 11 ppg, 8.5 rebs, and 1.5 blks.  He shot 8-19 for 42%.  He shot 55% on the season and averaged 14 ppg.  Meanwhile Thompson averaged 18 ppg, 13 rebs, and 3 blks.  It could’ve been worse as well as he missed 11 FT’s in the two games but shot an incredible 63% from the field in the two match ups.  At this point I was feeling great about this young man’s potential.

Tristan vs other NBA caliber bigs 

As I continued to look he did have some struggles though.  He did have that Kansas game which was the Big 12 tourney in which he fouled himself out of impacting the game and his team was clearly hurt by it.  Another game he ran into foul trouble was vs North Carolina.  This was the best frontline tandem he faced all season in Tyler Zeller and John Henson and he only was able to play 16 mins in this one and contributed next to nothing.  He had 4 pts, 5 rebs, and 0 blks.  Luckily each of those prospects project  to centers in the NBA.  Unless we truly fail rebuilding this roster he shouldn’t be expected to  guard that position at the next level.  This type of matchup also resulted in the only game that I can see (just from the stats anyway) where he was truly outplayed at both ends by his man.  That came against USC and the 76ers 1st rd pick Nikola Vucevic.  He was outscored 24-6, outrebounded 9-5 and his team lost by double digits.  Again though, he was giving up 3 inches to the 7 footer.  He didn’t lose all his height mismatches though.  In the 1st round of the NCAA tournament Texas was a sexy upset pick due to the play of Oakland’s Keith Benson (or was it just me who picked that?).  Benson would go on to be drafted in the 2nd round by Atlanta.  I just assume that this game’s film didn’t make it down south.  Benson at 6-11 averaged 18 a game last season and shot 55%.  On this night he would post a respectable 15 pts on a unrespectable 6-15 shooting and Thompson went 17, 10, and set a Texas record with 7 blocks.

Tristan on Offense

Needs improvement certainly.  This is no secret so I’ll put it pretty bluntly.  Dude can’t shoot. Yet. He apparently has a desire to be able to however considering he did attempt 113 jump shots last year roughly 3 a game. (Disclaimer: there were 2 games last season that did not provide play-by-play stats to determine the nature of shot attempts.)  He took 113 jumpers and made 34 of them.  He went one stretch over 5 games when he missed roughly 20 in a row.  Add this to the fact that he missed 134 Free Throws and it’s pretty clear that he has a LOT of work to do with a shooting coach.  He said after the draft that he’s shooting 1000 jumpers a day.  I say quit being lazy and make that 2000 a day.  The flip side of the coin reveals that he’s an amazing finisher at the rim.  Since I don’t have the complete numbers this is just an approximation but factoring out his jumpers he converts all of his other FG attempts at a 76% rate.  That is just raw athleticism at work.  He gets roughly 4 offensive boards a game.  He has an 86.5 in wingspan to go along with a 38.5 in vertical which equates to a lot of tip-ins, put backs, and god willing, lobs from Kyrie Irving.  He is a project on offense but if he can improve his shot over the next few years he could be truly special and turn out to be more than worthy of the 4th pick.  Obviously that’s a big if.  For some strange reason I feel encouraged he can succeed in this just for the simple fact that he keeps hoisting them.  Then again I realize he shoots 48% from the FT line and rediscover that it’ll be an uphill battle.

Time will tell whether or not Tristan earns his keep and justifies this pick but I can see what the Cavs saw in him.  Without any other clear impact player to take over him I suddenly like this pick a lot more.  He shuts people down on D.  He can get to a tear drop and swat it at 2 ft above the rim.  He already has that instinct defensively so this pick can’t really truly bust.  A big who can defend will play 10 years in the NBA and I think that’s his floor.  If he can make strides offensively and continue to develop his game, or if Kyrie Irving flat out makes him better, we may have found something special and jumped the rebuild up that much faster. 

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine,,, and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.