NBA

Tristan Thompson.

Tristan Thompson has justified his contract and silenced the doubters along the way

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently locked in a contract dispute with J.R. Smith as he remains an unrestricted free agent and unable to join the team for training camp and pre-season.

A year ago, it was Tristan Thompson who was in Smith's position as the Cavs dragged their feet on offering the power forward the max contract he wanted. 

Eventually, the Cavaliers gave in and offered him a five-year, $82 million contract that was met with some disbelief around the league. 

Thompson was not an All-Star, nor was he a dominating big man who could score, so how could they justify the salary?

The only way Cleveland and Double T -  as he's known to his teammates - could justify it, was on the court. 

What a difference a year makes. After playing a major role in helping the franchise win its first championship, the contract dished out to Thompson looks like a steal and he is now regarded as one of the team's most important players.

Importance

As most people know by now, you should be careful what you tweet as it could come back to haunt you. 

Cleveland Cavaliers Victory Parade And Rally

When Thompson and the Cavaliers were locked in contract negotiations last year, there were some who suggested that he wasn't that valuable to the organisation and their chances of winning. 

Here's one example by Matt Moore, an NBA Writer for CBS Sports:

Moore, like many others, was proved wrong by the 25-year-old and would now probably admit that without him, they might not have won the title. 

The Toronto native has never stood out for his work on the court and was just regarded as a rebounder and defensive player. 

2016 NBA Finals - Game Six

But last season he showed why his energy, his ability to switch onto quicker guards - as he so expertly did with Steph Curry in the Finals on multiple occasions - and his finishing around the rim in pick-and-roll situations was so crucial to Cleveland's success. 

It probably isn't too far-fetched to say he's the team's third most important player after LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Kevin Love didn't do himself any favours in the Finals as the trio showed they can win without him. 

Thompson was a dominant presence against the Golden State Warriors and he allows the Wine and Gold to play small, without really being small. 

Tyronn Lue's decision to make him the starting center and bench Timofey Mozgov was one of the shrewdest moves by the young head coach and it made a huge difference to the likes of LeBron and Irving.

2016 NBA Finals - Game Six

He is undersized at the five spot, but what he lacks in height and strength, he makes up for in grit and energy. He isn't a rim protector, but his ability to disrupt opponents' pick-and-rolls stops them from getting a free run at the basket.

Skills

Though many wouldn't consider it a skill as such, Double T's biggest weapon is his rebounding. He has proven to be the best offensive rebounder in the league.

The extra possessions he creates allows his star players to have multiple scoring opportunities and if you give that to James and Kyrie, they won't miss often. 

In Miami, King James was part of one of the league's worst rebounding teams who would regularly be overpowered by bigger opponents, but in Tristan Thompson, he's found a teammate who doesn't allow him to worry about that aspect of the game anymore. 

2016 NBA Finals - Game Six

But he brings a lot more than just rebounding that doesn't show up in the box score. LBJ, Irving and Love may take the plaudits for putting the ball through the hoop, but they would be the first to acknowledge Thompson's importance to the team.

His durability cannot be underestimated too. The Texas product has played in 370 consecutive games - the longest running active streak in the NBA and a franchise record. 

"You know, you have to be great at one thing in this league, why not be the guy that you can count on to play every night?" Thompson said.

Of all the games he's played, he came of age in game six of the Finals when he helped the Cavaliers tie the series at 3-3. He finished with 15 points, 16 rebounds and three assists on 6-of-6 shooting and was a menace on both ends of the floor. He let the world know who he was on the biggest stage of them all. 

2016 NBA Finals - Game Six

"Like LeBron and Kyrie said, be a star in your role," Thompson said after that game. "And for me that's high energy, use my motor, just play hard. Play hard be relentless on the glass. And that's what I bring to this team. That's my job ... and I try to do that every night."

He may never become an All-Star, but he's an NBA champion and a star for the Cleveland Cavaliers and right now, that's good enough for him and the people of Ohio. 

Topics:
NBA
Kyrie Irving
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
LeBron James
Tristan Thompson

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