Value is a funny thing in the NBA. In real life, value can be much simpler. Everything has a price tag that allows us to easy compare an item with it’s closest comparison. We can touch, examine, try on, buy and then return the item if it doesn’t meet our expectations.
In the NBA, each player has a unique skill set which makes it tough to evaluate. One need go no further then to ask a basketball fan who the best power forward in the league currently is. Is it Blake Griffin? What about Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge? Has Anthony Davis taken over the title at the age of 20? Each answer has its merits and each has it’s deficiencies.
When it comes to the Cavaliers though, it’s easy to know who their best player is. All fans, whether casual or committed, would instantly answer with Kyrie Irving. He is easily the most talented player on the Cavaliers roster and if the Cavaliers are to make the playoffs it will be almost solely because of Irving. Cleveland will only go as far as Kyrie can take them.
But with rumors flying around that Irving could currently be planning for life after Cleveland, in some ways he might not currently be the most valuable player.
The current goal in Cleveland is to make the playoffs, but in the grand scheme of things the only thing that matters to Cleveland at the moment is ensuring that Irving remains a Cavalier for the remainder of his career. And for that reason alone, Tristan Thompson may be just as valuable to the team as Irving is.
Just last summer, Aldridge was in the exact same position as Irving currently is. Rumors abounded that he was quickly looking for the first way out of Portland and was unhappy about being a Trail Blazer. Fast forward just a few months and Aldridge couldn’t be happier, proving that winning can change almost anything for a player.
The best chance that the Cavaliers have for sustained success is for someone other than Irving to begin to share the load. Although Thompson will most likely never be a star in the league, he brings a significant mixture of athleticism and size. At 6’9″, and 238 pounds, there are few centers in the league that Thompson doesn’t have the size to match, while also having the mobility to guard power forwards.
Since the All-Star game, Thompson’s stats have seen an improvement. His 36-minute averages have shown a slight improvement in scoring, in rebounding, and a big jump in plus/minus (-4.2 before All-Star break, +3.9 after). He is also shown a 7.1 percent jump at the free throw line and an 11.5 percent increase in his field goal percentage.
Granted, these improvements represent just the last eight games of the year; but, if Thompson can continue this steady play, or even build upon it, it could go a long way to improving the long term outlook of the Cavaliers.