RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Tristan Thompson

Posted by rtmsf on June 21st, 2011

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Tristan Thompson

School: Texas

Height/Weight: 6’8/230 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid-First Round

Overview:  The dreaded “tweener” label.  Given to players who have the size for one position but whose game is better suited for another position, Tristan Thompson appears to be one of these guys.  The Canadian import has a lot of things going for him — his explosiveness, lateral quickness, length and energy around the basket are tools that make him an intriguing prospect for a number of NBA squads in the low lottery picks.  But his small forward size and a complete inability to shoot the ball with a semblance of a post move or facing up with any kind of consistency is a serious problem.  Already 20 years old, Thompson has a significant learning curve ahead of him in terms of finding scoring opportunities apart from what is inarguably a great motor — the mechanics on his shot are poor, as evidenced by his 48.7% performance last year at the free throw line, and the athleticism advantage he enjoyed in Austin will be marginalized by equally strong athletes at the NBA level.  His calling card in the League might eventually come at the defensive end, what with his seven-foot-plus wingspan, strong physical base and above-average lateral quickness.  His bounce off the floor and anticipatory skills led Thompson to lead the Big 12 in blocks last year with 2.4 per game, and his containment of Arizona’s Derrick Williams (4-14 FG) in the NCAA Tournament showed that he can defend elite scorers.  Based on his athleticism and effort, Thompson is certain to be picked in the top half of the first round, but the team that gets him is buying a mixed bag of future possibilities with this player, from future All-Star to out of the league in three years.

Thompson Has Tweener Written All Over Him

Will Translate to the NBA:  His body and athleticism translate well to the NBA, although he’s not exceptionally built compared to the level of athlete he’ll find there.  His energy and effort, though, are areas where he may be able to separate himself.  Motivation and desire are intangibles that are an underrated aspect of this game, but Thompson may be able to make up for several of his shortcomings through sheer will.  As mentioned above, Thompson could also become an exceptional defender, one capable of guarding both power and small forwards if he eventually chooses to focus on becoming an elite player in that regard.  

Needs Work: He needs a reliable offensive game.  He depends almost completely on his athleticism and strength to power through defenders inside and get his points.  He doesn’t have a go-to post move, much less anything resembling a jumper.  Whether he can develop either of these things will go a long way toward determining if he’ll become a reliable scorer at the next level — otherwise, he’ll simply be an athletic garbage guy who can fly in for tip-dunks and lobs but who can’t make a jump hook to save his life.  

Comparison Players:  Former collegiate stars who have had trouble translating their athletic talents to the NBA like Ed Davis or Tyrus Thomas come to mind with Thompson.  Neither player has been able to move past their jumping jack tendencies to become elite post players, but both are impressive defenders and manage to grab enough boards and convert enough alley-oops to keep themselves in the rotation.  This is probably Thompson’s destiny in the NBA too unless he magically figures out how to shoot the ball in the next few years.

Best Case Scenario:  The true best case scenario is that Thompson develops a reliable post and spot-up game.  This will not be easy for a player whose jumper needs to be completely reconstructed, but it’s possible given his already-proven effort to improve.  If Thompson can add this to his overall talents in the next several years, he will become a solid starter on a mid-level playoff team — someone who can average 12/6 for several years and perhaps reach a 15/8 level during the peak of his career.

2014 Projection:  Unfortunately, we don’t project this career arc for Thompson.  The NBA roadside is littered with tweeners who simply could not get past their physical limitations to develop the required skill set to succeed at their position.  Since Thompson doesn’t have anything resembling a reliable jumper much less a post move, we simply don’t see him lasting long-term in the NBA.  Three years from now, we project him as providing spot minutes defensively, but little else past hustle points and is probably on his way out of the League.

Best NBA Fit:  Many of the teams in the middle third of the first round will give Thompson a look because his body and athleticism are so enticing.  Even if his offensive game never develops, he could still make a name for himself as an elite defender at the three or four.  The Golden State Warriors at #11 enjoy selecting players like him, as do the Phoenix Suns at #13 or the Washington Wizards at #18.  In each of those three situations, Thompson would probably earn immediate playing time and an opportunity to prove himself through his energy and effort during his first couple of seasons.

Scout’s Take (Chris Denker from Netscouts Basketball): “decent size, young, with a long wingspan… 20 pounds lighter than Derrick Williams, but what does he do outside of 12 feet?… good around the basket, but might be a tweener.”

rtmsf (3737 Posts)


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