Just in time.
Let's do this.
The roster looks a little different today than it did a few months ago (when Moondog was actively posting). Here's the rumored starting line-up:
1.) Kyrie Irving-PG
2.) Dion Waiters-SG
3.) LeBron James-SF
4.) Kevin Love-PF
5.) Tristan Thompson-C
The bench: Anderson Varejao-C, Shawn Marion-SF/PF, Mike Miller-SG/SF, Matthew Dellavedova-PG, Joe Harris-SG, James Jones-SG/SF, Brendan Haywood-C.
The big surprise here is the exclusion of Anderson Varejao from the starting line-up. But there's been some media buzz about the possibility of Thompson earning the second big-man spot next to Love.
The Basketball Logic
Most of the reporting on this has been done by Jason Lloyd over at the Akron Beacon Journal.
Here's Lloyd's thoughts on the matter:
Don’t rule out the possibility of Tristan Thompson starting at center. While it has been widely assumed Anderson Varejao would start in the middle, a theory has been floated within the organization recently that by starting Thompson, coach David Blatt could better limit Varejao’s minutes and help protect him from injury. There is plenty of time to make that final decision, but it’s worth noting the idea has at least been discussed.
As it is, Thompson has only one post move---a running hook that we've discussed in the past. Most of his points come from put backs and what I call the baseline linger. Thompson frequently allows players to cut around him while he lingers quietly on the baseline, lulling his defender into false security. When that defender ditches his assignment to play help defense, Thompson streaks towards the rim for an easy pass-and-dunk.
With Varejao hanging around the basket and retrieving a hefty chunk of rebounds (9.7 per game, in 65 games last yer per basketball-reference), Thompson plateaud as a player. His sophomore and junior campaigns consisted of nearly identical numbers, a disappointment for most of his supporters.
Varejao has developed a nifty mid-range shot, something I once swore he would never do. But it's streaky. Sometimes he hits consistently. Sometimes he doesn't. And he still prefers the blocks, a location that allows him to better situate himself for rebounds.
Plugging Thompson in might provide a bit more athleticism in the low post. It would also, likely, maximize Thompson's potential, particularly on offense. He performs best when he isn't the focal point of a defense and he has plenty of space to roam.
The Non-Basketball Logic
Basketball is not the only reason Thompson may start.
The Texas product is entering his fourth year in the league and could become a restricted free agent in 2015. If I was a nefarious, cynical person I would point out that Thompson and LeBron James share an agent (Rich Paul). If I was that guy, the sort of guy that grows a thick beard and conjures elaborate conspiracy theories, I'd casually mention that Thompson was briefly the subject of trade rumors before LeBron posted an Instagram photo of the two working out with Clippers guard Chris Paul. I might think that LeBron and Paul want Thompson to reach certain statistical benchmarks so that they can demand more money from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If the Cavs don't extend Thompson, and instead let him walk, they could be in an extremely unique financial situation; one that allows them to bring in another top-tier player or several pretty good players to accompany their triumvirate of ascendant superstars (James-Irving-Love). Should they extend Thompson, for more than he's worth, the Cavs would still have space to bring in some solid players (something Miami never had the ability to do during James' tenure) but it would eliminate the possibility of a fourth near-max player.
(Note: Zach Lowe wonderfully touched upon the financial implications of a Thompson extension here.)
If we wanted to delve further into the mind of a conspiracy theorist, we might find this thought:
"Wouldn't trading Thompson make sense? The Cavs need a true rim protector----something Thompson is not----or a floor spacer----another thing Thompson is not. Why keep him?"
You keep him because LeBron James is running your team and ostensibly making all personnel decisions. You keep him because LeBron walked out before and you're terrified of losing him again, despite knowing---deep, deep down---that he wouldn't recover from that PR disaster.
You don't keep him because he clogs up the lane for one of the best slashers in the history of the league. You don't keep him because both Love and LeBron operate at insanely high-levels down low. You don't keep him because he's not bringing much to the table offensively.
You don't keep him because he can't protect the rim and he can't cover for Kevin Love and the lackluster perimeter defense from the Cavalier guards (who are Irving and Waiters going to successfully defend?). Irving gave defense a shot during the FIBA Championships this summer. He took a deep breath and gave it an honest-to-goodness shot.
And he sucked. He was still a terrible defender.
You need someone to erase those mistakes and Tristan Thompson is not that dude. Use him to go get a real rim protect, a mistake eraser.
That's what a conspiracy theorist might say, anyways.
Thompson starting over Varejao wouldn't be great for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, NBA 2K15 already released this video:
Second, Thompson doesn't unlock much for the offense and he doesn't bring much to the table defensively. He could be traded for a more valuable asset.
Third, he could play himself into an unreasonable contract that hinders future free agent possibilities for the Cavaliers.
On the other hand, Thompson could develop other aspects of his game and he could gel with Blatt's system. We don't currently know what the Cavs defense or offense will look like (though we can take some educated guess, particularly on offense).
This will be an interesting storyline to watch as the season progresses.