Coming up with a starting lineup for the Cleveland Cavaliers should be easy. Four positions are already spoken for right off the bat. Kyrie Irving is the point guard. Dion Waiters is the shooting guard. LeBron James is the small forward. Kevin Love is the power forward. And logically, it would make sense that veteran Brazilian big man Anderson Varejao would start at center. However, new head coach David Blatt may have other ideas, according to Bob Finnan of the News-Herald:
The Cavaliers are at least toying with the idea of starting Tristan Thompson at center.
If they do, they must feel his athleticism will overshadow the size discrepancy he would face almost every night.
Thompson is listed as 6 feet 9, 228 pounds.
The league is shifting toward more mobile big men instead of the behemoths in the paint. One reason is it’s difficult to find legitimate 7-footers.
Until the Wine and Gold Scrimmage on Oct. 1, it was thought 6-11 Anderson Varejao would be the starting center.
Playing a less conventional big man next to James is nothing new — the Miami Heat won two straight titles with Chris Bosh in that role. But Thompson is nowhere near the shooter, passer or defender Bosh is. The teams that will give the Cavs the most problems in the Eastern Conference all feature traditional bigs. Can Thompson guard Joakim Noah? Can he guard Nene or Marcin Gortat? What about Al Jefferson?
Varejao, when healthy, is a solid defender who can bang with anybody. He’s also a known quantity who isn’t playing out of position. That’s what the Cavs need in the frontcourt next to Love, a tremendous rebounder who isn’t a great defender. Once the rest of the team gets comfortable with each other, it might be worth experimenting with Thompson at center next to Love.
Neither option is perfect. The Cavs have plenty of scoring firepower at all five positions, but if there’s one hole in this roster, it’s a rim protector. James is an all-world defender, and so is Shawn Marion, but Love and Irving are known for their deficiencies on that end and just about everyone else on the roster is unproven. Swinging a trade for a Larry Sanders-type big man would give them everything they need, but that might not be feasible until at least the trade deadline.
Then again, this team has LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, so there’s a pretty good chance they’ll outscore everybody every night and defense won’t matter.