Tristan Thompson Makes Surprising Decision to Become Right-Handed Shooter

Ethan Grant@DowntownEGAnalyst IAugust 11, 2013

Many NBA players are ambidextrous as ball-handlers and when attacking the basket, but we've yet to see one who started his career shooting the ball with one hand before deciding it would be better to use the other.

Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson is aiming to do just that.

A left-handed shooter his entire life, the 22-year-old has made the shocking choice to give up on being a southpaw in favor of shooting jump shots and free throws with his right hand.

As reported by SportsNet's Michael Grange, Thompson is working on the craft right now with the Canadian national team during the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament. Playing against Jamaica on Thursday night, we got the first glimpse of the wholesale change in meaningful game action.

The debut of Thompson's right-handed game wasn't exactly a glowing endorsement of the switch.

Missing two free throws and all of his shots outside the paint, we didn't see the immediate rewards of Thompson's choice to put his left-handed days behind him.

That being said, to expect him to consistently hit the 48.8 percent he shot from the floor with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season would be comically unfair.

It's probably why no one in NBA history has attempted to make the adjustment.

Using his left hand during the 2012-13 NBA season, Thompson quietly blossomed for Cleveland in his second NBA season. Averaging 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per contest while starting all 82 games for the franchise, Thompson reaffirmed Dan Gilbert's decision to draft him with the No. 4 overall selection in 2011.

Grange's report notes the Cavs are on board with the switch:

The Cavaliers have hired Dave Love, a shooting coach from Calgary who learned from the highly respected Chip Engelland. ... Engelland is currently an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs and widely credited with successfully revamping Spurs star Tony Parker’s shot.

Love and Thompson have been working together daily to master his new shot. Love has been in Toronto during the national team camp and working with Thompson in the afternoons after practices that have often run three hours.

While Thompson is strong with the ball going to the basket, teams started to give him open jump shots last year. As noted by Grange, it stuck with the power forward's psyche this offseason:

More than 70 per cent of his attempts were inside 10 feet, where he converted a rate of 56 per cent on tip-ins, dunks, put-backs and a variety of other shots. The issue for Thompson is that he only took 84 shots from outside 10 feet and just 51 from outside 16 feet.

In other words, once Thompson was anywhere on the floor just outside the distance of the free throw line, he basically wouldn’t shoot.

Thompson has apparently been planning the switch for quite some time.

"I was in Phoenix (last November) and I just started shooting right-handed and got a lot of compliments on it," he told Grange. "A week later when we got back to Cleveland and got one of the ball-boys to record me and I shot 100 jumpers with my left and 100 with my right and it was significantly better with my right-hand."

While it's an unconventional decision, to say the least, the Cavaliers want Thompson to be the best player he can be for the franchise. If that means Thompson is listed as right-handed in the program on game night, then so be it.

We'll discover next season if the third-year player made the "right" decision.


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