Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson is the proverbial does-things-that-don’t-show-up-in-the-box-score player.
Except now he finally has one that does.
Through eight playoff games, all Cleveland wins, Thompson leads all active players in the postseason with 4.9 offensive rebounds per game, while his 10.6 rebounds overall rank fifth.
A lot of the 6-foot-10, 238-pound center’s success on the offensive glass is due to pure hustle, but there’s also a method to the long-armed Thompson’s madness.
“(It’s) just watching the ball and watching where guys shoot,” he said as the Cavs prepare for the start of the Eastern Conference finals. “If a guy is shooting a shot in the corner, 70 percent of the missed shots usually come off that other side and 30 percent hit off the front rim. (It’s) just playing the percentages and kind of studying your teammates’ shots throughout the course of the game.”
The 26-year-old, who is in the second season of a five-year, $82 million contract, not only studies those shots during a game, he analyzes them throughout the season and even over the course of players’ careers.
“A guy like Channing (Frye), if he misses a shot, he has a lot of arc on his shot, so if he misses it’s probably going to be close (to the rim),” Thompson said. “J.R. (Smith), his shot is not as much arc as Channing, so if he misses it might be a little more of a long rebound. (It’s) just understanding your teammates.
“I’m hoping they make every shot. If not, I tell them, ‘Don’t worry, there’s a good chance I will be able to get that offensive rebound.’”
With the Cavs shooting a sizzling .490 from the field and .434 on 3-pointers in the postseason, there haven’t been a ton of offensive rebounds to grab. But when the opportunity has presented itself, Thompson has often capitalized and given his team, which is averaging 114.5 points, a second chance to score.
“Even when Kyle Korver is shooting the basketball or even when Kyle Korver is at the free throw line, he’s crashing the glass every single shot,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “His motor is unbelievable.
“He’s one of those guys that can crash from the perimeter and still get back on the defensive end. He treats every shot like a miss.”
Rebounding aside, Thompson’s statistics aren’t overwhelming.
The sixth-year pro averaged 8.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.08 blocks in the regular season, but shot a career-low .498 at the foul line.
On the positive side, his .600 field goal percentage, which came mostly on dunks and baby hooks, ranked second in franchise history behind Tyrone Hill, who hit .601 in 1996-97.
Thompson, who had played in 447 straight regular-season games prior to missing the last four with a thumb injury, also ranked fifth in the league in field goal percentage this season among players with at least 400 attempts.
In the playoffs, the University of Texas product is averaging 7.8 points on .532 shooting from the field and an improved .571 at the line, 10.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks.
However, in addition to being an excellent perimeter defender after switching and landing on a smaller, allegedly quicker player, Thompson’s calling card is offensive rebounding.
His team-high 286 offensive boards ranked seventh in the league in the regular season, while his 3.7 average was fifth behind 7-foot or bigger centers Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside.
“What I really lick my chops for is when you get the offensive rebounds at the end of the third quarter, fourth quarter (to give your team another opportunity),” Thompson said. “That really just sucks the life out of the opponent. You can see it in their face, especially when you’re on the road. It just takes the whole energy out of the arena. That’s what I live for.”
It’s not the type of thing that leads to postgame interviews on ABC, ESPN or TNT, but that’s OK with Thompson.
“It’s the little things,” he said. “That’s kind of what I bring to the table in terms of doing things that might not show up in the box score — diving for a loose ball or switching out on a guard and getting that big stop. Or cutting someone’s water off it they’ve made a couple shots.”