Over at (the remains of) Sports Illustrated, Sam Amico has been speculating on what the future holds for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who at 5-15 are currently mired in a second straight horrible season. Amico thinks that, in addition to taking the long view on the draft, the Cavs are prepared to move expiring contracts, including those of Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson… and that “Toronto is said to have a high interest in Thompson.”
Queue the eyes emoji!
So — what to make of this?
First, take it with the ol’ grain of salt. Rumours are not fact and Toronto’s front office, historically, does not broadcast who it has or does not have interest in.
But if reports of Toronto’s interest are true, would Tristan Thompson even make sense for the Raptors? I think he does, to be honest.
One of Toronto’s weaknesses this season has been rebounding; they’re 22nd in rebounding percentage (and they’re only winning team in the bottom 12). Thompson, who’s currently averaging a career-high 10.6 boards per game, would certainly help in that area.
Thompson is an OK defender; maybe not as quick anymore as you’d like in the modern NBA, but he’s aggressive and knows how to use his size to throw opposing forwards off their game. I’m sure Nick Nurse would quickly figure out how to get the best of him on that end.
On the other hand, Thompson is somewhat limited offensively. He can score inside, and while he’s not a guy that needs the ball, Nick Nurse’s offense works best when all five guys on the floor can shoot the basketball. On the other hand, Kyle Lowry has been making his big man teammates look great for years by giving them the basketball in the exact right spot, and I’m sure he’d do the same for Thompson. I should note, Thompson is averaging a career-high 13.6 points per game currently, although his .538 true shooting percentage is his lowest since before LeBron James came back to Cleveland.
So, pros and cons. (And, sure, it’s always nice to have more Canadian players on the team, but that shouldn’t be a consideration).
Fit aside, we have to talk about what the Raptors would have to give up to get Thompson. He makes about $18.5 million this year, so the Raptors would need to match that salary within 125 percent to work out a deal. The Cavaliers, certainly, would be looking for assets in return, both in terms players and picks. Would Masai Ujiri give up on OG Anunoby for Thompson? Seems unlikely. Would Norman Powell be enough of an asset? Maybe, but the Raptors don’t seem to have enough other salary to match (at least until December 15th, when Patrick McCaw, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can be traded).
Math aside (and I certainly trust that Ujiri and Bobby Webster would make something happen if they really wanted to), the good news is, Thompon’s deal expires in the summer of 2020, so if a trade happened it wouldn’t likely affect Toronto’s theoretical pursuit of Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021; on the other hand, acquiring him now might impact this season. There’s been some suggestion that, with the Raptors having started hot, Masai Ujiri might be eyeing a move that puts the Raptors over the top in the 2020 championship race.
I don’t think Thompson is that move, and in fact acquiring him might make such a move even tougher, if you think that whoever gets moved for Thompson has more value to other teams than Thompson does.
Here’s my ultimate take on it: I like Thompson as a player, and I’d be happy to see him in a Raptors uniform because I think he could help them this season. But I also don’t see any rotation players on the roster I’d be wiling to give up for him.
What do you think?