There was just over three minutes left in the third quarter of a Monday night game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Minnesota was in the middle of an attempt to string together some sort of run to get within striking distance of a game they were losing by 18. The Cavaliers’ offense had become such a mess to where Tristan Thompson, with one second left on the shot clock, got the ball within a step of the three-point line.
He had to hoist the 22-foot jumper which ended up being an air ball, though partially blocked by Ricky Rubio. It was yet another empty possession from the Cavaliers; one of several disappointing ones that, if not for Kevin Love’s missed three-pointer at the end of regulation, could’ve cost them the game.
But that sloppy execution confirmed what was one of the more unusual stories of the NBA’s 2013 offseason: Thompson going from a left-handed shooter to using his right hand. He used the latter during that 22-foot miss.
Go back to the situation for Thompson. There was only a second left on the shot clock and no time for him to second-guess a shot well out of his range. Wouldn’t anyone else shoot with the hand they’ve used since they first played basketball?
I would imagine only Larry Bird and Andrew Bynum would consider going against that logic. Bird was one of the best shooters in the game, known for shooting with his off-hand more than a few times in the regular season just to keep himself entertained. As for Bynum, we’ve seen him do crazy things before, such as this three-pointer.
It seems plausible he’d take a similar shot with his off-hand as well.
But Thompson went with what used to be his off-hand—his right hand—which now I’m confident is his strong one from here on out. (Didn’t anyone else have their doubts?) Thompson himself showed he was confident enough to use it, despite the possibility of an opposing guard blocking his shot (which happened).
Overall, the results of Thompson’s right hand have been promising. He’s eight-for-20 with his jump shots, 40 percent, and an uptick from last year’s 36.3. His free throw percentage has seen a larger jump, up from 60.8 percent to 76.5 with about one more attempt per game.
Thompson’s PER may be five points lower than in 2013, but Cleveland’s been a jumbled mess offensively through four games. At least the promising young forward appears to be one of the few Cavaliers off to a good start.