Just six days before the start of the 2015-16 regular season, Tristan Thompson ended his holdout with the organization by signing a five-year, $82 million deal.
During the NBA Finals, Thompson showcased his value to the team, capitalizing on his limited offensive opportunities and tracking down seemingly every errant shot from his own team.
Thompson totaled 27 offensive rebounds in the seven game series, 11 more than any player on Golden State and 10 more than LeBron James, the Finals MVP that led all players in points, total rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
James has clearly been the most dominant player in the NBA Finals for the past two years, but Cleveland is at its best when Thompson is making contributions.
The impact of Thompson extends much further than the 6.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game he posted during the 2016 playoffs.
The 25-year-old forward has generated an offensive rating of 128 each of the past two post season runs, with the total marking the highest in 2015.
An offensive rating of 128 means the Cavaliers scored an average of 128 points for every 100 possessions with Thompson on the court in the playoffs.
The figure was the sixth highest average in the 2016 post season. Only the Oklahoma City duo of Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka posted a higher offensive rating while playing 500 or more minutes in the latest playoff run.
Thompson has maintained his effectiveness while shuffling between two positions. The 6-foot-9 Thompson spent 79 percent of his time on the floor at the power forward position and another 21 percent lining up at center in the playoffs.
The fourth overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft was at his apex in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, when he spent 43 minutes on the floor — the same amount of time as James — to keep the season alive for the Cavaliers.
The key to his success is Thompson’s ability to sprint up and down the court. During his time on the floor, Thompson runs an average speed of 4.46 miles per hour, a significant increase over his counterpart in Golden State, as Andrew Bogut averaged 3.77 miles per hour.
In Game 6, Thompson was able to dictate his position on the court by outracing his opponents down the floor, as he converted all six of his attempts from the floor. Each of his shot attempts came at the rim and he also earned a pair of trips to the foul line with his easy looks at the basket.
Cleveland won Game 6 as Thompson totaled 15 points, 16 rebounds and three assists.
Thompson became the sixth Canadian-born player to win an NBA championship after he closed out the series with a nine point, three rebound, two block effort.
When Thompson ended his contract stalemate with the Cavaliers at the end of training camp, it drew criticism from around the league with Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins summing up many similar thoughts with a simple tweet saying “How much???”
The steep cost of Thompson’s deal, one negotiated by the same agent as James, resulted in Cleveland in spending $170 million in total salary after luxury taxes were paid.
Thompson graciously accepted a lesser role with the team, giving up his starting power forward job after the team landed Kevin Love in a trade.
Even in a reduced role, as his playing time has decreased by 13 percent over the past two seasons, Thompson has remained as one of the most prolific offensive rebounders in the league.
In 155 fewer minutes played than Love during the 2015-16 regular season, Thompson hauled in 119 more offensive rebounds.
A return to the starting lineup in 2016-17, this time at the center position, Thompson is being severely undervalued heading into the fantasy draft.
During the latest set of fantasy basketball rankings from ESPN, Thompson isn’t even among the top 130 players listed, meaning he is either a 12th round pick, or even in danger of going undrafted.
The only other center on the roster for the Cavaliers is Chris Andersen, a player that has spent over 1,000 minutes on the floor just twice in the past six seasons.
Thompson is a worthwhile fantasy option, as he ranked 12th in total rebounds last season with 738 total rebounds and his 58.8 percent shooting from the field would have ranked as the fourth highest in the league if he had taken enough shots to qualify.
To qualify, a player has to have converted 300 or more shots, last season, Thompson converted 247 times.
The Cavaliers made Thompson the final player on their championship roster last season and for fantasy owners looking to claim a title in their league, selecting Thompson would prove to be a wise decision.