Tristan Thompson shows familiar hustle for Cavaliers, as his role at power forward expands to 3-point line

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson has made a career from playing around the rim and being a viable option out of the high pick and roll.

Whether it’s catching lobs or rolling to the hoop, Thompson knows how to operate in the middle of the floor. On Monday in the Cavs’ preseason opener, Thompson showed how his skills can translate for a team in transition. In the Cavs’ 120-89 victory over San Lorenzo de Almagro (Argentina) on Monday night at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Thompson had a double-double, scoring 14 points on 58.3% shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds in 26 minutes.

“He’s really taken on a real premier leadership in the team,” coach John Beilein said. “He huddles us up every time, and just his energy gives us leadership, too. Without saying a word, I think people understand, he’s all in to get as much hustle rebounds or plays. He finished around the basket, too, which was good.”

Thompson helped open the Cavs’ offense with his ability to play around the hoop. In the video below, Thompson received a pass from Brandon Knight and exploded to the rim for a dunk.

“We know what Tristan does,” Jordan Clarkson said. “He does a good job of creating second chances.”

During the second quarter, when the Cavs started playing with more pace, Thompson scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds. Along with his work down low, though, Thompson also moved the ball well. He finished the game with three assists, second only to Cedi Osman’s five.

With Thompson playing some minutes at power forward, he experienced what is required in a Beilein offense. Power forwards must take shots from distance sometimes, and Thompson shot two threes. He didn’t make either of them, but a willingness to do so can help create space for the guards. Defenses expect to have to deal with the roll to the hoop, or they play tight on the pick-and-roll’s ball-handler. Therefore Thompson will be open if he drifts to the three-point line.

Of course, he’ll have to knock some of them down.

“They both looked good,” Clarkson said of Thompson’s 3-pointers. “I passed one of them to him so, him just being confident shooting that shot, I think it’s going to be good for the offense as well.”

Thompson has shot (and missed) nine 3-pointers in his career. He’s always been a rim runner who rebounds well and plays solid interior defense. But now, as he heads into his ninth season, Thompson has an opportunity to show he can do more.

The Cavs will play their annual Wine and Gold scrimmage Tuesday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, with tip-off set for 5 p.m.

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