Tristan Thompson’s Rise Could Be Canada Basketball’s Gain


Tristan Thompson’s Rise Could Be Canada Basketball’s Gain

Anyone who has kept an eye on the NBA playoffs this year has had a chance to hear about Brampton, Ontario native Tristan Thompson, and the role he has played throughout the Cleveland Cavaliers run to the NBA Finals.

Originally coming off the bench, Thompson was called into the starting rotation after Kevin Love went down with a season ending shoulder injury during the first round. In Love’s stead, Thompson has surpassed all expectations and become a prime factor in contributing to Cleveland’s first finals appearance since 2007.

Although not the offensive talent Love was, Thompson has done more than enough, averaging nearly double-double figures with 8.8 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Most important of those stats is his average of 4.1 offensive rebounds per game, something that allows the many offensive weapons the Cavs still have, to get a second chance and a fresh clock on their opponent’s end of the floor.

He’s also averaging career bests in minutes per game with 33.8 in the playoffs, and continues to shoot over 50 percent from the field.

May 26, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward

Paul Millsap

(4) and Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) fight for a rebound during the third quarter in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

In other words, he’s playing the best basketball of his life right now and it couldn’t have come at a better time for both him, the Cavs, and a third-party no one has happened to mention yet.

That third-party would be Canada Basketball.

With the Pan Am games being held here in Toronto, and the Olympic qualifiers coming up in August, there certainly shouldn’t be any shortness of excitement from Canada’s national team, to see Thompson ascend to such a level he is currently playing at alongside King James and co.

If he were to play for Canada this summer, it could be argued that he alongside Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, and Cory Joseph who also had a career year in minutes, points, and assists, could form a formidable triple threat at all the major positions of center, small forward, and point guard respectively.

As of now, Wiggins and Joseph are a sure go for both the Pan Ams and Olympic qualifiers this summer, according to the Senior Men’s GM Steve Nash.

Meanwhile, Thompson has always been an active member of the program, playing 26 games for Canada at a number of levels since 2008.

He is a by-product of the continued effort by basketball Canada to introduce this recent generation of talent over the last eight years, while they were still in high school, and continue to keep the core group of talent in the fold as they continued with their individual progressions right up into the pros.

His last stint was for the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup Olympic Qualifiers back in the summer of 2013, where he averaged ten points and nine rebounds.

Canada finished fifth in the tournament and failed to qualify for Rio in 2016.

May 26, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward

LeBron James

(23) celebrates with center Tristan Thompson (13) during the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Hawks in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Now this August in Argentina will be Canada’s last shot at making the Olympics in Rio, and it will need all hands on deck from their young stars to do so.

Having so many young stars should dictate that a lot of them, including Thompson, should be present for the Pan Am’s to get to know one another just a little better before the big tournament happens in August.

It’s actually kind of interesting watching Thompson do what he’s been doing during these playoffs, considering a lot of the media attention for Canada Basketball has been on Wiggins.

Wiggins is a great talent, and has shown his ability to score throughout the league while having great defensive energy on the perimeter. But you could make the argument that, between Thompson’s double-double averages, especially during the time of the most intense level of basketball in the world’s best league, he is gaining invaluable experience and confidence that he can bring over to a group of Canadian guys that he’s already known very well through the years of multiple national camps, AAU and Prep seasons, and the NCAA.

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In other words, Tristan Thompson could prove to be a more valuable piece to team Canada’s roster, than even Andrew Wiggins.

That will most likely not be the case in the near future, but right now, Basketball Canada cannot afford to let Thompson take the summer off for either the Pan Am’s, or the qualifiers if they want to be successful.

The good news is, he’s almost certainly going to be playing for Canada in August, during our country’s last ditch effort to make it to Rio in 2016, as he was present for the 2013 qualifiers, and it is highly unlikely he will still be sifting through contract negotiations with the Cavs, or any other would be suitor by then.

To be honest, the Pan Am games would not have the team it might currently get if it wasn’t for the fact that it is being held in Canada, and the last chance to qualify for the Olympics was only a month away afterwards. But even if this tournament is merely an appetizer to the main course in August, it doesn’t seem like anyone at Basketball Canada is treating it like that, especially Nash.

So if they’re not, then I’ll say it again, the number one priority for this management group is to have Thompson rocking the red and white come July 21 when they tip-off at Maple Leaf Gardens against the Dominican Republic.