Longhorns in the NBA: Thompson shows up big, Turner seeing small minutes

Abhishek Mukund

The NBA season is heating up with nearly every team reaching the 10-game mark. Some teams, such as the Oklahoma City Thunder or Houston Rockets, have strung together a few wins to get their seasons back on track. Others, like the Golden State Warriors or Boston Celtics, demonstrated why they’re still the favorites in their respective conferences. The San Antonio Spurs continue their 20-year dominance of relevancy in the league, while the Washington Wizards are attempting a Costco-style sale of all their players. Let’s take a look at some Longhorns who aren’t in these extremes, but whose impacts and team performances are headed in different directions:

Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers won their first game last week against the Atlanta Hawks. The Cavaliers have played three games since then, and unsurprisingly, collected three more losses. Two of those losses weren’t particularly close, with the Cavaliers losing by 19 against the Denver Nuggets and by 32 against the Charlotte Hornets. However, it took a buzzer-beating three by Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier to beat the Cavaliers on Monday evening.

Perhaps the biggest predictor in the Cavaliers competitiveness is the play of Texas alumnus Tristan Thompson. Thompson scored a combined 18 points on 52 percent shooting from the field, and grabbed a total of 15 rebounds in the two blowout losses against the Nuggets and Hornets. He scored 19 points on 75 percent shooting from the field, and grabbed 16 rebounds in the close loss against the Magic.

Thompson set his season-highs for points, rebounds and shots attempted, and also tied his season-highs for assists and blocks in just one game. There is a very small chance that Thompson can replicate this level of play on a night-to-night basis, but it’s what he must do if the Cavaliers hope to stay competitive in the wake of their piling losses.

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers were the surprise team of the 2017–2018 NBA season, and they’ve continued their stellar play into the current season. A Monday night loss to the Houston Rockets, led by superstar guard James Harden, dropped the Pacers to a respectable 7–4 record — good for third-best in the top-heavy Eastern Conference.

Although the team is playing well, former Longhorn Myles Turner continues to provide virtually nothing on both ends of the floor. Turner is posting a career-low in rebounding this season and his points average is the second-lowest of his career, above only his rookie season. His field goal and three point attempts are both the second lowest of his young career as well. Turner is also shooting a career-low from three-point range this season despite being labeled a stretch-big for virtually his entire career.

Turner’s backup, Domantas Sabonis, continues to play at a high level. Turner, who averages just under 30 minutes per game, saw his playing time dip to only 23 minutes in the Monday night loss to the Houston Rockets. Sabonis averages just over 20 minutes on the season but logged 30 minutes against the Rockets. Head coach Nate McMillan is playing the big man who gives his team the best shot to win, and Turner hasn’t proven himself to be that player.