Tristan Thompson is exciting Canadian basketball fans more and more each day with his play this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Thompson, the highest drafted Canadian of all-time, was picked fourth overall in the 2011 NBA Draft, just three spots lower than teammate and franchise point guard Kyrie Irving.
Thompson and Irving knew each other before finding themselves with the Cavaliers after forming a friendship coming up through the rankings as teenagers in various basketball camps. Irving exploded on the scene right away with an incredible rookie season while Thompson had a tradition first year for most rookie big men.
After showing signs of his potential in his first year, Thompson is coming into his own improving in nearly every statistical category this season.
A year ago, the 6-foot-9 power forward recorded 8.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists while shooting 43.9% from the field and 55.2% at the foul line. In his second season, Thompson is flirting with a double-double average of 11 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists while bumping his shooting averages to 49.4% from the field and 63.5% from the line.
It’s no secret it takes post players longer to get comfortable with the NBA game than it does for guards, and it appears Thompson is finding his comfort zone. He’s started all 46 games he’s played this year and managed to record 17 double-doubles in those contests.
He’s also only getting better as the season progresses with January being his best month of the season to date. In the first month of 2013, Thompson averaged a double-double of 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds. He failed to score in double-figures only once in the month and it was the first game of the new year for the Cavaliers on Jan. 2.
Cleveland is certainly excited about his potential and as he continues to develop, his role with the franchise will only grow. He’s already done a great job stepping up with the injury to Anderson Varejao and with the void left by the quality center, the Cavaliers hope Thompson can continue his current level of play.
Outside of Cleveland is where Thompson finds his biggest fans. The 21 year-old from Ontario, Canada is being viewed as the leader of a soon to be influx of Canadian talent into the NBA. With two Canadians projected in early mock drafts to go in the first round of the draft this June, and Andrew Wiggins projected as a first overall candidate in 2014, Canada Basketball is heating up to levels never seen before.
Wiggins has the potential to surpass Thompson as the highest Canadian ever drafted, but then again that can happen this year depending on how Anthony Bennett finishes his freshman season. With all the up and coming youth, Thompson becomes the example that anything is possible for Canadian basketball players. It wasn’t too long ago Canadians were an afterthought for college recruiting and the thought of being drafted was extremely rare. Now thanks to the example set by Thompson, NBA and college teams are not only looking north of the border for talent, they’re looking north of the border for franchise altering players.
It won’t be long before Canada and the United States find themselves competing for a gold medal in basketball instead of hockey for once. The U.S. is obviously still light-years ahead of Canada and will be for years to come, however if players like Thompson, Wiggins and Bennett reach their potential then Canada could walk away from a future Olympic games with a silver medal. Argentina is old, Spain isn’t getting any younger, Brazil and France are competitive but far from unbeatable and Lithuanian will always be in the mix. However, come 2016 it’s not outrageous to suggest Canada might provide the United States with its toughest competition.
It started with Thompson, it’ll continue this spring with Bennett and it won’t stop anytime soon with Wiggins on the way.
Thompson has not only made an impact in Cleveland, he’s completely changed the way Americans look at Canada in terms of basketball.