Biggest Changes in Tristan Thompson's Game in 2013-14

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterNovember 8, 2013

INDEPENDENCE, OH - SEPTEMBER 30: Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers poses for a portrait during 2012 NBA Media Day on September 30th, 2013 at the Cleveland Clinic Courts Practice Facility in Independence, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

At 22 years of age, it's common for a young man to try and find himself.

Career decisions, women, contemplating moving to Aspen, Colorado.

Life can be so confusing.

However, most people by the time they've turned the double two have got the whole dominant hand thing mastered.

These people are not Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Thompson, who made the unprecedented decision to switch shooting hands this summer before beginning his third professional season, is now beginning to see the results of his switch.

The question is, was it the right decision?

Shooting Mechanics

Thompson has never been confused for a jump-shooter in the NBA.

Coming out of the University of Texas, Thompson made his living around the basket, grabbing offensive rebounds and putting them back in using his length and athleticism.

Not surprisingly, in 12 major skill categories that measure college prospects, Thompson's worst attribute was his jump shot, according to

When Thompson decided to switch to a right-handed jump shot this past summer, the Cavs were on board.

“He’s done a phenomenal job with it,” head coach Mike Brown told Bob Finnan of The News-Herald. “I give (credit) to (Cavs general manager) Chris (Grant), because they’ve provided all the resources—a shooting coach and other stuff to help him make the transition.”

So far, the results have been encouraging.

First, here's a look at Thompson from a game against the Charlotte Bobcats last season.

Taking a left-handed jumper from about 13 feet out, Thompson is showing the form of an 11-year-old whose leg must have fallen asleep.

He doesn't square his shoulders to the target, his feet are much too far apart and he's definitely not going straight up. Overall the shot was off-balance and ended up clanking off the back of the rim.

Now studying Thompson, his form is much improved. 

Everything about this shot is better. 

The shoulders and hips are square to his target, the right elbow is tucked in and Thompson goes straight up. He's still got a little push to his shot, but it's clear working with the shooting coach has paid off. 

Shooting Range

In 2011-12, his first year in Cleveland, Thompson stuck to the paint as if it were made of quicksand. A whopping 391 of his 442 shots, or 88.5 percent, were attempted in the paint.

Thompson's shot chart in 2011-2012, his rookie year.
Thompson's shot chart in 2011-2012, his rookie year.

The following season, albeit still shooting left-handed, was slightly better.

Thompson was still doing most of his work by the basket but was at least experimenting with a jumper.

That season, in 2012-13, Thompson took 630 of his 799 shot attempts from the paint, down to 78.8 percent overall. His shot chart still wasn't pretty, but it had improved from his rookie season.

Thompson's shot chart in 2012-13, his second year.
Thompson's shot chart in 2012-13, his second year.

Now looking at this year, while still early, it's clear Thompson is not afraid to unleash the right-handed jumper from further out, and more frequently.

In his rookie season, Thompson was taking nearly nine out of every 10 shots from in the paint.

So far in 2013-14, he's down to almost half.

Remarkably, this season has seen Thompson attempt just 27 of 47, or 57.4 percent, of his shots in the paint.

Thompson's shot chart for 2013-14.
Thompson's shot chart for 2013-14.

So what does this mean?

Thompson has not only decided to switch to the right hand, he's committed to using it during games.

Where once the athletic finisher never strayed from the basket, now the Cavaliers power forward has expanded his range, thus opening up driving lanes for himself and his teammates to utilize.

Free-Throw Shooting

Combine better shooting mechanics with a newfound love for the jumper and Thompson's free throws just had to get better.

And that they have.

Here's a look at Thompson's free-throw shooting from college to today.

Year/TeamFree-Throw PercentageHand

2010-11 Texas

2011-12 Cavs55.2Left
2012-13 Cavs60.8Left
2013 Canada78.7Right
2013-14 Cavs*76.2Right

*Through five games

It's been a remarkable turnaround at the charity stripe for Thompson thus far as he continues to develop his right hand. 

This could be a huge difference for the Cavaliers, at least according to Kyrie Irving.

Irving talked about what a difference a bump in Thompson's percentage could mean for the Cavs in an interview with Dime Magazine, saying: "...we did the calculations. Every NBA game last year, was decided by 2.6 points. If Tristan goes from 58 percent to 78 percent, he gets us 1.25 points, I think."

It appears the Cavaliers have done their homework.

Hopefully Thompson can keep up his strong shooting start, and continue to develop his right hand and jumper.

He certainly has the work ethic to do so.




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