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Tristan Thompson isn't Horace Grant because Horace Grant was really good

Let's not compare a youngster without much of an NBA record to someone who was an active participant in one of the best teams ever.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

With the aim of explaining why Tristan Thompson's contract extension negotiations have been so difficult, Cleveland Plain-Dealer scribe Chris Haynes gets into a bit of trouble by putting stock into "league source" opinions about the Cavaliers big man. After confirming with Dion Waiters of all people that Thompson is indeed irreplaceable as a Cav, Haynes lets this fly.

One league source described Thompson's presence as the "Horace Grant of this team," a selfless power forward whose dirty work helped the Chicago Bulls conquer their first three-peat championships from 1991-93.

I'm not sure whether the appropriate emoji response is

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Thompson is roughly Grant's equal as a scorer and a better rebounder. Those things matter. But Grant was a rather brilliant defender who filled the Dennis Rodman role in the Bulls' first three-peat. Grant made four second-team All-Defense squads and joined with Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan to form the backbone of truly elite opposition units.

This is Haynes' commentary on Thompson's defense three years into the NBA.

Thompson is better known for his work ethic and relentless motor. The 6-10 forward averaged 11.7 points and 9.3 rebounds the past two seasons and is often asked to guard the opponent's best low-post player. His reputation is built on his blue-collar line of attack.

Emphasis mine. That is about the weakest endorsement of Thompson's defense possible, especially considering that the Cavs have ranked Nos. 26, 27 and 19 in defense in T.T.'s three seasons. When you measure Thompson's actual defensive production, you find that he's a net negative on that end.

Horace Grant was a selfless power forward on offense. That means he didn't need the ball and didn't do much of note outside of his role. Tristan Thompson fits that definition well. But offense is half of the game. Horace Grant was a very strong defender, one of the league's top 10 at any position for four straight years. Tristan Thompson is not particularly close to the top 10 defenders at his position. On defense, there is no comparison. And so on the whole, unless Thompson is a totally different defender this season (which is possible, given the presence of LeBron and a new staff), Tristan Thompson is not the Horace Grant of the Cavs. To say so diminishes the impact Grant had on the Bulls, diminishes the importance of defensive skill and intensity and gives Thompson credit he's really not due at this point.

That said, I can't wait to find out how Dion Waiters is the Joe Dumars of Cleveland.


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