With restricted free agent Tristan Thompson opting not to sign the qualifying offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers, rumors are buzzing about teams swooping in to grab the former No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. One of the teams with the need for talent and the cap room to accommodate the power forward are the Portland Trail Blazers.
Keep in mind, if the Blazers were to successfully pry Thompson away from the reigning Eastern Conference champions, it would come at a high a price. The Cavaliers can still match any offer to Thompson, and would likely match any contract at market value or below, which Cleveland has gauged at 5 years and $80 million. Portland would have to overspend for Thompson, who saw his playing time plummet this last season with the arrival of Kevin Love.
There is a lot to be said for Thompson's offensive skill set. He started every game for Cleveland in 2012 and 2013, and subsequently ranked second among all NBA players in offensive rebounds, grabbing an average of 3.5 per contest. Only Andre Drummond grabbed more over that period. He also ranked second in offensive rebound percentage, and cracked the top ten for total rebounds in 2013-2014. Combined with an average of 11.7 points per game, he was a consistent double-double threat.
Unfortunately, the other end of the court is something entirely different. Advanced metrics point to him as being one of the worst defensive players at his position in the entire NBA. Despite playing at power forward and center, Thompson has averaged 0.7 blocks per game for his career. In 2012-13, he finished No. 44 in the league in blocked shots, and No. 11 among power forwards. In 2013-14, he recorded 35 blocks the entire season, ranking him near the bottom among power forwards who played at least 60 games and No. 114 overall.
Despite his offensive rebounding ranking him among the league's best, his defensive rebounding is simply average, with Thompson snaring approximately 4.7 defensive rebounds per contest last year.
His offensive scoring skill set leaves much to be desired. 67 percent of his shots have come within three feet of the hoop, 25 percent from three to ten feet. Yet only 26 percent of his shots were dunks, leaving him with little more than a close range bunny hook. Anything further than eight feet is outside of his range. His style is similar to the back down and attack style of LaMarcus Aldridge, but without the ability to step back and shoot if the opponent forces him out.
Overall, while his win shares have grown each year, topping out at 6.8 last season, his defensive win shares ranked him No. 24 among power forwards and No. 100 overall over the last three seasons. The majority of his win shares come from his dominant offensive rebounding, but he brings little else to the table. Essentially, the Blazers would be paying premium market value for a player with a few solid strengths, but also some very visible weaknesses. This would be an example of paying for potential rather than average output. According to Zach Lowe of Grantland, new Trail Blazer Ed Davis is a favorable comparison to Thompson among NBA scouts, meaning Portland has a comparable player already.
With cap room being one of Portland's most powerful assets heading into this season, it does not seem like a logical move for the Blazers to sign Thompson. He certainly has the potential to improve his shooting and post moves to become a truly dangerous threat in the lane, but not for the price the team would pay.