On paper, Tristan Thompson’s lone season with Boston doesn’t look so bad. In fact, the former Cavalier played solid basketball in his given role.
Nevertheless, a major problem stuck out like a sore thumb during that 2020-21 season: Rob Williams was tied down to the bench.
Timelord had not fully broken out just yet, and players like Thompson and Daniel Theis put a figurative cap on Williams’ playing time. Danny Ainge dealt Theis at the deadline to make more room for Williams, but Thompson still started in 43 contests that season and got the nod in all five of Boston’s playoff games.
In a forgettable season defined by mediocrity, the Celtics were simply mediocre with Thompson. In games Double T started Boston went 21-22. Meanwhile, the Cs won 10 of 13 contests in which Timelord started.
In Thompson’s defense, the Celtics dealt with an abundance of various injury issues all season long. For a new player like Thompson, building chemistry became significantly more difficult under such unpredictable circumstances.
In his final season as head coach, Brad Stevens also misused Thompson to an extent. Instead of simply leaning on the veteran’s championship pedigree, Stevens played Thompson in double-big lineups with Theis that totally lacked spacing and refused to commit to Boston’s big man of the future in the process.
On the heels of two consecutive seasons averaging a double-double, Thompson posted 7.6 points and 8.1 rebounds on a nightly basis with Boston. His net rating of -1.0 also correlated with the team’s 36-36 record.
At the end of the day, Thompson may have played just fine with the Celtics, but his presence on the team only delayed the inevitable arrival of Williams. Therefore, Ainge should not have signed the former NBA champion in the first place.