Over the past few weeks, Tristan Thompson has gotten some criticism for his lack of contributions. He was signed to the mid-level exception to address a need the Celtics had in the frontcourt rotation: a rim-running big man that had winning experience.
Unfortunately, this match has not quite worked out over the early part of the season. Thompson has just not been able to stay on the floor during crunch time and Brad Stevens has been deferring to Daniel Theis, who is a more versatile big that fits better in endgame lineups.
Even with all of that said, Tristan Thompson may have played his best game as a Celtic Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings. He finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds on an extremely efficient night for the big man. The only negative was Thompson still being benched a majority of the fourth quarter only to come on as a rebounding option in the last seconds of the game.
The positive to come out of this game for him is that strong stat line. He showed he can still put up impressive numbers that made him a valuable asset on a championship Cleveland Cavaliers team. Thompson got back to the basketball that made a name for himself and bullied his way for a double double against a promising Sacramento frontcourt.
He was an enforcer that the Celtics had not seen from him so far this season. Multiple times in this game Thompson was the biggest, strongest player down low fighting and earning every rebound and basket made.
This clip is the exact version of what Thompson needs to bring to the Celtics. He catches the ball in the post-up position and absolutely takes Marvin Bagley Jr. to school down low with his unmatched physicality. Thompson works harder and gets up in Bagley’s chest, battling his way for the easy lay up and the foul.
The Celtics need that look in Thompson’s eye after that hardnosed basket going forward. He has got to become that option for the offense who is hungry to score and who can establish the inside game. Daniel Theis is more of an inside-out type of big man who is more comfortable around the arc setting screens or sliding out for an open three-point attempt. Thompson can be the flip side of that frontcourt duo bringing the tough nosed basketball in the paint. It can be a perfect contrast of styles making teams have to adjust to them as opposed to the other way around.
Also, one major skill that Thompson brings is his rebounding abilities. He collected 10 rebounds with 3 of those being offensive. Not many times have the Celtics had a double-double with rebounding being an included category. Thompson is trying to become their go-to rebounder that can stop second chances on the defensive side and continue possessions on the offensive side.
Despite Thompson’s strong play through three quarters, Stevens still showed he will go with the best matchups down the stretch. Thompson will have to continue to build as a defensive center that can be more versatile to stay in these games in the final minutes. The liability has not proved worth it for Stevens to leave Thompson in the game.
Tristan Thompson would not let himself get caught up in his big performance. He talked about how the team played good defense in spurts, but they have to put it together for the entire game.
“I think we’re making progress. We are showing at times how very good defensively we can be but we’ve got to do it for a full 48.” He knows that he still has work to do with this team in hopes of getting to where he wants to be. That should be great news to Celtics fans even after a tough loss. He said himself, “just back to being myself.”
It has definitely been tough times for Tristan Thompson this season. He has battled a nagging hamstring injury that kept him out of most of training camp and was out for over a week due to health and safety protocols. Even as he acclimates to his new team, Wednesday night showed what he can bring to the Celtics. It is the strength and physicality that will help this team the most.