When former Ohio State center Trevor Thompson declared for the NBA draft, few were surprised. Following last season, the Indianapolis native declared as well, looking to get his feet wet with some NBA teams before heading back to school. Thompson did not receive a single invite to a team workout.
This time around, however, would be different. Thompson hired an agent, and the questions and head scratching began. Thompson walked away from Columbus with an additional year of eligibility on the table. Eligibility that could’ve translated to an improved draft stock. Plus, with the departures of JaQuan Lyle and Marc Loving, the 7-foot center declined a full season of playing for a Buckeye squad with him as a featured act.
Maybe Thompson saw the writing on the wall and effectively evaded the Buckeyes’ offseason vortex. Maybe he thought his stock was as high as it could be, and the risk of injury wasn’t worth it. More than anything, though, Thompson truly believes he belongs in the association.
“(I’m) someone who will do their job,” Thompson said, following a workout with the Pacers. “Someone who can be versatile, anything you tell me to do I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. Someone who is going to try to be the best teammate possible. Someone who is going to try to help win.”
After flirting with the NBA last season, and officially entering the draft this season, Thompson has amassed two offseasons of pro combines and pre-draft workouts. His biggest takeaway? Work.
“The goal is to be drafted but at the end of the day I’m just going to continue to just work hard, continue to just keep getting better.”
Will he get drafted? Let’s take a look at Thompson’s strengths, weaknesses, best fit, and overall outlook.
Trevor Thompson is a traditional big man. First and foremost, he is strong on the glass. Last season, the center averaged 9.2 rebounds in just 23 minutes per game.
The only player to average more in the Big Ten? Caleb Swanigan.
In addition to his prowess on the boards, Thompson is an efficient finisher on the interior. He possesses the size, strength, and footwork to effectively position himself and the block or elbow and score accordingly. The junior shot 57% from the field while averaging just over 10 points a game.
All in all, his scoring and rebounding led to Thompson finishing the season with 11 double doubles, good for third in the Big Ten.
What begins to set Thompson apart, however, is his athleticism. He runs the break and retreats in transition with a fluidity and speed that’s atypically to a man of his frame. This isn’t a lean, outside shooting, stretch big. It’s a 7-foot paint eater. Also, Thompson routinely skyrocketed at the rim and finished with robust violence.
Trevor Thompson is a traditional big man.
One of the biggest holes in his game is his outside shot. Today’s NBA requires it, and if Thompson can shoot from the perimeter, he certainly hasn’t. In his 17-point game against UConn, the center did not hit a shot outside of 10 feet. In fact, Thompson has not attempted or made a three-point shot in his entire college career.
Another weakness for Thompson comes on the defensive end. He has not demonstrated an ability to cover smaller, quicker players on the perimeter. And while his post defense and protection at the rim is serviceable at worst, it is not at the elite level that can cover up his lack of outside game at the next level.
-Potential Best Fit
Trevor Thompson’s best asset comes in the form of his willingness to fit within a team and work his tail off to get better. He isn’t going to wow anyone defensively, and he isn’t going to stretch the floor in a pace and space offense. The best fit for Thompson is going to be a team that understands he will need time to develop and doesn’t subscribe to the three-point rainstorm of a Golden State.
If teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies or Utah Jazz find themselves in need of a center Thompson certainly fits the bill. He likely wouldn’t make the active roster, but if he could grind it out in the G League and fight for time on 10 day contracts he would have a shot.
In many ways, Trevor Thompson is the personification of the difference between college and professional basketball. Despite his athleticism, without an outside jumper, off the chart blocking ability, or other worldly rebounding, the NBA simply does not have a place for traditional paint eaters. Accordingly, he will undoubtedly go undrafted.
Thompson will not only have to battle, which he certainly seems ready to, but will also have to get lucky. The road will be long.