I for one cannot wait for this NBA season. I think this will be one of the more intriguing seasons in a long long time. There seems to be genuine bad blood between teams again which I think just makes the NBA so much more interesting than when guys are hugging it out with the other team before the game.
As I am likely one of the only people that watches every single Raptors and Cavs game a year I thought it might be a good idea to keep a running series on the development of both our very own Tristan Thompson and everybody's seemingly favorite what if Jonas Valancunas. Just to clarify exactly what I'm trying to achieve with this is to gain a better understanding of both these players games, strengths and weaknesses along with intangibles while remaining as objective as possible. Full disclosure I'm a life long Cavs fan living in Canada so I do have an interest in both these clubs. But nobody can come close to the Cavs for me. I am not going to go into a million hypothetical situations about who we could have drafted had the picks been switched around or other moves that would have been possible. That would be a waste of everybody's time in my opinion and I'm not Bill Simmons. I also refuse to compare Jonas' first year with Tristan's first year. Jonas was going to spend last season overseas no matter who drafted him leaving him a year behind in development. Part of drafting Tristan was being able to groom him in Bryon Scott's system from day one. So let's get this show on the road.
Strengths of Jonas:
Jonas from what I've seen so far is a fairly strong on the ball defender. Once an offensive player catches the ball with his back to him he does a very good job of staying square to his man and not over committing to one side or the other allowing an easy roll to the basket. He also has tremendous lower body strength for his frame. An asset that will surly increase once he has an offseason with NBA trainers under his belt. He also has very strong post moves. He's a throw back center who feels way more comfortable with his back to the defender rather than facing him up. There was a time vs. the Knicks where the ball was entered in to him by Kyle Lowry and the whole team let him go ISO with Tyson Chandler on the left side of the court (facing the basket). He caught the ball with his back to Chandler about 5 feet out of the paint and proceeded to back Chandler down to the paint and used a quick twitch spin move to the inside of the key that left Chandler flat footed and unable to even contest the look. Jonas has also shown the ability to be an effective strong side shot blocker. He wound up with four blocks vs. Milwaukee but to be fair most came on Sam Dalembert who seemed to think he could just try to do a lay up straight through Jonas. I think these opportunities will diminish once players see film of him and realize that he isn't as easy to attack straight at him. The slender frame is deceiving. He also is a strong free throw shooter although I haven't seen this ability to shoot in the mid range game. This may be cleared up with a larger sample size.
Strengths of Tristan:
He isn't called Tigger for nothing. While he is a little undersized at PF coming in at 6'9 you would never know it with his fantastic athletic ability. His ability to run the floor and get up is a great fit for a high tempo offense. While his high energy can be a big asset in breaking up plays on the defensive end he must be careful not to gamble as much and play the percentages more. Tristan is a very good strong and weak side shot blocker. You can look through several of the games last year especially once Andy was hurt and you could see game by game progress in his confidence and his awareness on the court on the defensive end. He is an average pick and roll defender which is more than you can say about most first year big men. He has all the tools to become an exceptional pick and roll defender he just needs to mature and hone in his athletic ability. I feel much better about whether or not he will mature and become strong to elite in these strengths due to his work ethic. Everything I've heard about Tristan is that he is a gym rat, takes well to criticism, and completely dedicated to improving in the offseason. He has shown a commitment to excellence since he was drafted by the Cavs and that should never be taken for granted. The fact that him and Kyrie seem to get along so well is also very encouraging. That's the difference between OKC and Sacramento. You can draft many young talented players, but if they don't gel together and have great chemistry it can be a gong show.
Now for the weaknesses:
- Trouble catching the ball. As he is lobed in an entry pass he scissors his arms rather than bringing them up together. This can cause him missing the ball altogether and has caused him to turn the ball over a lot throughout the preseason. Which is frustrating considering how fluid he is once he catches the ball in the post.
- Awful weakside defender. He just doesn't move his feet. He can look apathetic when his man doesn't have the ball and can get lost in off ball screens. If the opposing guard penetrates and goes down the lane by him he will foul. Which means ofcourse means...
- Foul Machine. Jonas has struggled in the preseason racking up fouls at a crazy rate. It's been difficult to get a complete sense of his game due to this fact. He has shown offensive brilliance in flashes and completely timid D league indecisiveness in other moments. I'm not sure if his hesitation on the court is due to being in foul trouble so frequently but it's something to keep an eye on going forward. If he is a defensive liability he will spend a lot of time on the bench as Toronto has three very productive big men in Bargnani, Amir Johnson and Aaron Gray.
- Awkward. I can't really bring up Tristan's chemistry without mentioning that Jonas is an odd man out in Toronto. I spoke to one of the broadcasters of the Raptors on Wednesday and was advised that his inability to speak English strongly plus the fact he can be a lone wolf has made the transition to the NBA a little bumpy. Not something I'm really concerned about yet but something to keep an eye on moving forward.
- Wait for it... No seriously wait for it. Can this guy go up in one fluid moment when he catches the ball. I've seen big time improvement this preseason in taking the ball up quickly on jump hooks, a few mid range shots and when receiving passes in traffic. But seriously there's nothing worse than seeing him catch the ball, gather himself and get stuffed on a dunk.
- Free Throws. Yeah you guys don't need a breakdown of this. I guess missing free throws after a foul is better than missing a layup right? At least the other guy has a foul right? God I'm reaching more than a Boston fan talking about Sullingers all star potential.
- Rushing. Whether it be on defense or offense sometimes he has the tendency to force his game rather than slowing down and making the smarter or safer play. This worries me a fair amount and I hope coach Scott will help him remain more discipline.