How Thompson fits in and benefits the Bulls’ postseason dreams originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Get past the very unconventional way the pending signing of Tristan Thompson has unfolded and the veteran big man is a very conventional playoff player.
Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle broke the news after Thompson, who turns 31 next month, stuffed the box score with 17 points, six rebounds and a block on 8-for-9 shooting during of a win over the Washington Wizards.
The Chicago Bulls will have to give up one player — probably Alfonzo McKinnie — to sign Thompson. Here are three ways the 11-year veteran fits in and benefits the Bulls.
While a far cry from the championship kingpin he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers in his prime, Thompson plays tough, high powered and remains a monster on the boards. His defensive rebound rate ranks in the 73rd percentile, while his offensive rebound rate sits in the 96th percentile, according to Cleaning the Glass.
The Bulls, at the time of this writing, possess a top-5 defensive rebounding rate, but are the second-worst offensive rebounding team in the league. And they have been prone to lapses with Nikola Vučević off the pitch.
With Vučević on the floor, the Bulls are rebounding 76.7 percent off opponent misses, a figure that would rank first in the NBA. Without him, this figure drops to 69.7%, which would be last. Thompson would be a boon eating Vučević’s rest minutes
As soon as the ink dries on Thompson’s season-ending deal, he immediately jumps to the top of the class for playoff games. He also joins Alex Caruso as the only Bulls to win championships.
Thompson has played in 83 playoff games, including 22 NBA Finals. While his poor free throw shooting — 62.5 percent in the playoffs, 60.6 percent in 707 career regular season games — would likely keep him from closing games, his postseason averages of 7.8 points and 8.6 rebounds are notable.
Also, Thompson doesn’t need the ball to be effective. He has carved out a place for himself as someone who scores mostly on backhands and lob dunks. He plays to his strengths, which is why his shooting percentage goes from 51.8% in the regular season to 56.6% in the playoffs.
No one stops Giannis Antetokounmpo or Joel Embiid. But with another long physical and defensive body, Thompson adds six more fouls to the Bulls big man rotation.
Plus, Thompson has experience guarding big players in big moments. If nothing else, Thompson’s arrival will give coach Billy Donovan options after Vučević. Put together a small-ball reserve formation with Thompson and Derrick Jones Jr. for stretching? Using Thompson for nights when Tony Bradley is ineffective?
The playoffs are about survival. They are sturdy and physical. Adding depth in the front area is only good.
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