Paul Silas on Cavs Rookie Tristan Thompson: “I Think He’s Going To Be A Heckuva Player”

Many years prior to coaching the Cavaliers in Cleveland, Paul Silas was an All Star post player who collected over 10,000 rebounds while scoring over 10,000 points during his sixteen year NBA career. In 1963, while still at Creighton University, Silas averaged – averaged – 20.6 rebounds per game, and completed a three year college run that set the NCAA record for most rebounds ever in an NCAA career.  

In 1974 and 1976 he helped his Boston Celtics win NBA Titles, and in 1979 he helped the Seattle Supersonics do the same. He was all an NBA Defensive Team Selection two times, and he was named to the Second Team All Defense three other times in his NBA career as well. So on the subjects of NBA defense and rebounding, at least, he’s kind of an expert.

He’s also been the Head Coach of the Clippers and Hornets, prior to coaching in Cleveland and now Charlotte with the Bobcats.  Leading up to this past June’s Draft, Silas worked out Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson, and eventually selected Kemba Walker 9th, and traded for the rights to Bismack Biyombo on Draft Night (who was technically taken 7th by the Sacramento Kings), after Tristan went off the board at 4th overall to Cleveland. 

I caught up with Coach Silas prior to the Cavs / Bobcats game on Tuesday, who almost seems like a Professor Of Basketball when you talk to him in person, and asked him about what his impressions were of the Cavaliers Post Playing Rookie from Canada.  

Below is our exchange:

Stepien Rules:  Coach I know you talked about Kyrie Irving, but what are your early impressions of Tristan Thompson with your expertise in post play?

Paul Silas: Well we saw him, and worked him out, and I think he’s a great defender right now and a terrific rebounder. His offensive game certainly will come as he continues to work at it. But I think he’s going to be a heckuva player.  I look at our player Biyombo, and I look at them as sorta the same. They both can play great defense, block shots, rebound, and that kind of of thing, but offensively they need work. And he most certainly does, but when he gets that I think he’s going to be very good.   

Tristan Thompson does need work offensively, but what’s most encouraging to me about that is how focused he appears to be on improving that aspect of his game. The NBA caliber defense and rebounding is there right now like Coach said, and if Tristan wanted to strictly rely on his athleticism and activity alone every time he steps out onto the floor he could. He’d be effective in the process too, and nobody would even blame him for not trying to operate offensively in a capacity he’s not fully comfortable in just yet. But he is willing to challenge himself to do that, to compete one-on-one in the post, and to me that is an early indication of really why he can become a heckuva player.

I’ve watched Tristan work on that same shot fake, one bounce, and to the basket move in practice and pregames for a while now. Then he goes out and tries to implement that same move from the practice floor at game speed, and he’s starting to finish it already. Sometimes he doesn’t, but he has converted that post move about five times already, and it’s going to only get more natural for the kid as the season goes by.

And he’s doing all this in addition to hitting his head on the retired Joe Tait banner in the Quicken Loans rafters repeatedly on his way up for transition dunks, rebounds, and Mutombo like rejections on defense too. Good pick, Mr. Grant.

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.