In the next of their series of prospect previews, the HQ looks close to home...
Valanciunas, Biyombo and Vesely?
Check, check, check.
As we move along in our 2011 prospect preview, we turn back to some of the lottery picks that aren't slated to go as high as five to Toronto, but that the Raptors will be taking a look at anyways.
This morning? None other than a Canadian prospect, Brampton Ontario's Tristan Thompson, who is working feverishly to prepare for his jump to the NBA:
And who better to give us the breakdown on the Texas forward then the HQ's own head of Canadian Basketball reporting, Ray Bala...
Tristan Thompson’s Resume to Date
McDonald’s High School All American, 2010
All Big 12 Second Team, 2010-11 season
All Big 12 Defensive First Team, 2010-11 season
All Big 12 Rookie First Team, 2010-11 season
Big 12 Rookie of the Year, 2010-11 season
Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, 2010-11 season
Honorable Mention All American, 2011
Per game: 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.4 blocks, .9 steals, 54.6 FG% in 30.9 minutes
17th in Big 12 Conference in scoring
Second in Big 12 Conference in rebounding
First in Big 12 Conference in blocks
First in Big 12 Conference in offensive rebounds (3.8)
Points – 26 vs. Kansas State, Feb. 28
Rebounds – 15 vs. Michigan State, Dec. 22
Assists – 4 vs. Illinois, Nov. 18
Blocks – 7 vs. Oakland, Mar. 18
Steals – 3 five times, last vs. Oklahoma St., Feb. 16
Minutes Played – 40 twice, last vs. Pitt, Nov. 19
First and foremost, Tristan is a defensive minded player which is something the Raptors can never have enough of. Thompson is a lot stronger and quicker than his 225 pounds may give off and he can defend almost any position. He has great footwork that lets him stay in front of small guys and enough muscle to hold off bigger guys in the post. He’s a very good one-on-one AND team defender which makes him an instant asset. He is also a legit pro level shot blocker in the same mold as Dwight Howard. Thompson’s combo of athleticism, length and quickness allows for him to block shots in both single coverage and in help defense situations. On the Raptors, he would be a lane intimidator, something the team until recently, hasn't had in god knows how long. You can refer to his above resume for his defensive pedigree.
Second, the kid is a rebounder. The 7.8 rebounds per game won’t jump out at you perhaps but look at his offensive rebound totals. Almost half of his total boards came on the O side and that is where the truly great rebounders separate themselves. Think of the amount of energy that you have to have to get an offensive board, whether fastbreak or halfcourt offensive set. Thompson just flat out goes after it and that should give us a glimpse into his future in the league, where he could very well be an elite glass cleaner. On a Raptors team where, outside of the injured Reggie Evans, rookie Ed Davis led the team in rebounding with 7.1 per game, Thompson becomes instantly desirable.
Lastly, he’s a very high potential guy. I’ve never been a person who ascribed to the "potential" of players as discussed by "the experts" very seriously, even less when it came to talk of said high schooler looking like an NBA prospect. That kind of stuff always sets a kid up for failure. Well, Thompson has been doing nothing but knocking down those predictions like he was checking off things on a grocery store list. High school All American, check. Conference Freshman of the Year, check. Make All Conference Team, check. Honorable mention NCAA All American, check. The only thing left to check off his list is to get Drafted and be a force. The best part of that, especially for me being a Canadian basketball fan, is that Thompson has the intangibles, the physical gifts and the work ethic, to make that happen. If we were to add him to the Raptors current lineup as is, sans improvments, he would make an immediate impact.
He could very well be Dwight Howard lite in many ways, or he may be the next Adonal Foyle. Whenever I hear the term huge upside, I'm always thinking about what you're giving up. In Thompson's case it's a polished offensive game, either inside or outside. Right now a good portion of his points are scored on dunks and second chance buckets with the occasional athletic post move. Without a go-to move or a much of a counter game in the halfcourt set, it looks like there is much work to do to be a consistent scorer at the NBA level.
One other thing that comes into question is his overall size for the four spot. In this nouveau NBA where the 6'8" guys tend to be wing players, Thompson may be a little undersized to play low on a nightly basis. The fact that he's barely heavier than Amir Johnson at 225, even though he has some strength, isn't a great help either. The guys he'll be asked to defend will be a physical handful, on top of being fairly skilled, and even for an active and energetic defender like Thompson, this could be a tough. He'd need to put on some weight and add strength to battle nightly in this league.
By the way, Thompson is a horrible free throw shooter. Like Ben Wallace bad. That is a something he'll need to work on for sure also.
Since he's an active shot blocker, he can also get into foul trouble. He'll need to learn when to go for the block and when to just make the shot hard for his opponent.
Last but not least, he also a Toronto area kid. The pressure for most young players is very high to perform but to do it in your hometown? Thompson would be living under the Hubble Telescope and that sort of pressure could be crushing.
Overall, Thompson could be a very good fit for the Toronto Raptors. He's plays D, he rebounds and could be a definite lane intimidator. He couldn't be counted on to score, but frankly if you're drafting him in the lottery, that's not what you're after with Tristan anyways at this stage.
His overall experience at the highest level could be questioned since he's entering the league after only one college year, but really he's played on pressure filled stages his whole (young) career so this shouldn't be a huge concern at this point.
No, the real concern is probably duplication.
Some have said that Tristan is essentially an Ed Davis clone, perhaps even one with a bit less upside on the offensive end.
In many ways his game is similar to that of Amir Johnson as well, so from a positional standpoint, drafting Thompson doesn't make a ton of sense. He also doesn't have the upside of many of the names being bandied about in mock drafts around the fifth spot, so it would be surprising to see Toronto grab him at 5 for these two reasons alone.
However the Raptors will indeed take a look at him up close this week, and stranger things have happened.
Considering his attitude and work ethic, and the fact that many of his "concern areas" are ones that can be corrected in the gym, maybe the Raptors fall in love and look to move down in the draft to grab the Ontario native.