Tristan Thompson a real threat for the Cavaliers

In the summer of 2011, the consensus first overall pick was Duke’s Kyrie Irving, an explosive point guard whose one and only collegiate season was marred by injuries.

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Klay Thompson, who was taken with the 11th slot by Golden State, has quickly emerged as an elite shooting guard, one half of the Splash Brothers.

With Thompson and Steph Curry in the Warriors backcourt, the franchise will be competitive for years to come, their shotmaking and ability to go off at any given moment providing the Warriors with a legitimate shot to win a title this year, even with the West so deep and strong.

Clearly, Thompson should have been taken much higher than 11th overall.

The wild card that year was Tristan Thompson, whom the Cavs would select with their fourth overall pick.

The Raptors selected fifth, addressing a need at centre by taking Jonas Valanciunas.

One can debate whether the Raptors would be better off with a Tristan Thompson or Kawhi Leonard, but that’s a debate that can wait.

Thompson returns to Toronto Wednesday night, poised to cash in big on a contract as several members of his draft class seem poised for big pay days.

On the eve of the 2011 draft, Dwane Casey came on board as head coach of the Raptors, Casey’s stock at its highest after he helped lead Dallas to its NBA championship over Miami and its vaunted Big Three.

It’s hard to compare the new Tristan Thompson from the one who entered the league, an assertion Casey fully endorses.

“He’s really improved,’’ said Casey of the Brampton-raised power forward who spent one year at Texas. “He’s done a great job with his body. He’s much more polished around the bucket than he was on video coming out of Texas.

“He was raw, but you can see he’d be a good talent.”

What Thompson has evolved into is an offensive rebounding machine, a talent who has knack for retrieving the basketball.

“What I saw coming out of Texas was a skinny athletic power forward,’’ added Casey, who marvels at Thompson changing shooting hands. “You can’t compare the old with the new. He’s in constant motion.”



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