The Eastern Conference’s second place Toronto Raptors have been getting by without a lot of depth so far this season and on occasion, being short of veteran help on the back end of their roster has jumped up to bite them. This team needed some depth and insurance, particularly in the frontcourt and finally president and general manager Masai Ujiri broke down and waived one of his precious young prospects and said good-bye to Canadian Anthony Bennett in order to add the Golden State Warriors recently waived veteran big man Jason Thompson.
“We signed Jason Thompson,” Ujiri said. “We feel we needed a little help at the power forward position and he’s a guy that started probably an average of 60 games (over) the last four/five years and (he’s) a good rebounder and midrange shooter, but just somebody to come in a fit on our team.
“Where we find ourselves now, (Thompson) is something that can help us maybe a little bit down the road.
“He has been a consistent rebounder which is I think good, a good offensive rebounder. Then he developed a midrange shot that’s not bad. Those are things that I think could help us, but he also knows that he is coming to play within a system where there’s a way we play and there are guys we go to and how guys fit with our team. I think he understands that. We are hoping (he’s) one of those things that fit and sticks with us.
“You hope for (him to) move the needle. You never know. He is going to play a role on our team. I don’t think it’s as big a role as he’s played in the past. We just hope he helps us win more ball games.”
Over his eight seasons in the NBA, Thompson has grabbed an average of 9.6 percent of the available offensive rebounds and 20.3 percent of the available defensive boards. If it translates, that would place him as the Raptors third best rebounder on an already solid rebounding team.
Thompson finishes well around the rim, at a career average of about 65 percent and he has shot at right around 40 percent from three feet away out to the three-point line pretty consistently.
“I think he is going to be an excellent addition to us,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s a veteran player. He’s been thru the wars. He’s seen everything. He’s come from a winning program in Golden State. A high I.Q. player. A guy that is going to play hard.
“He is an insurance policy with Luis (Scola) and Patrick (Patterson) down the road. He is not coming in to supplant anybody because anybody is not playing well or whatever the issue is. He is an insurance policy.
“I have done my homework on him. Talked to all of his former coaches, assistant coaches, so I know about him, what he can do and can’t do. So, (I’m) very comfortable. (You) just wouldn’t want to bring anybody into our chemistry because I think we got a strong locker room, a close locker room. A team that has been thru the wars already together. It’s not like we have to have somebody come in and change the world, just come in and support the guys that are already here.”
The wars Casey is referring to must be in Sacramento as Thompson hasn’t had a sniff at the playoffs tolling away in obscurity until this season. However, the last group of guys Casey got from the Kings organization looked way better than expected after they arrived in Toronto. So, maybe there are other kinds of war in the NBA?
Thompson does have 406 NBA starts under his belt and playing besides DeMarcus Cousins either seems to toughen up a player or just make them blossom after they leave?
“I’ve been around winning this season (in Golden State) and you have a lot of winning ways out here in Toronto,” Thompson said. “I know a bunch of the guys from playing against them and former teammates in Patrick (Patterson) and James (Johnson). A top-notch organization and I am excited for the opportunity.
“I am not trying to come in and mess up a great thing, but be a part of something and help and try and make this ride go.
“(I am) not coming in here to establish myself and mess up a great thing, but just try and pick my spots, make open shots, rebound, defend and do the little things to see this team succeed.”
Thompson can play at power forward or center, so it’s interesting to hear what his former Kings teammates Patterson and Johnson have to say about the guy who might be taking some of their minutes.
“Jason Thompson, a hard working individual on and off the court, always does the right thing, never back-talks, great rebounder, great midrange jump shot, great defensive player, great mindset,” Patterson said about his former and now current teammate. “A veteran, been thru it all. He’s a hard worker and that’s something we desperately need.
“He’s a great leader. When I was there in Sacramento, he was a guy that was speaking up. He was a vocal one. He was the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. Just a tremendous hard worker.
“He’s not going to cause any problems. He is going to learn his role. He is going to play his role well. He is going to be happy. We are going to be successful with him on this team. He’s a great guy.
“He is going to bring energy on and off the court.
“I doubt anything is going to change. Scola is the starter, me coming off the bench, but with the remaining games left, guys need rest, Scola or myself, or JV (Valanciunas), or Biz (Biyombo), luckily Jason can play the four and the five.”
Johnson was equally positive about the addition of Thompson.
“He’s tough, explosive, he goes after every rebound,” Johnson said. “He has a midrange shot that you have to guard. He’ll be a big pick-and-pop threat.
“He’s a great guy. He’s just normal like one of us. He is going to fit in well. It’s a good addition to our locker room.
“I don’t know what his role is going to be right now, but I’m sure whatever it’s going to be he’s going to adapt to it and take care of business.”
Johnson, more than anyone else on the Raptors, understands the role of being insurance for another player. Johnson got his starts and most of his minutes this season covering for the injured DeMarre Carroll and he knows Carroll will be taking that role back fairly soon. However, he can also see just how important his role has been for Toronto this season.
Thompson, like Johnson, should be an important asset for Casey to use down the stretch of this season and into the playoffs. Plus, maybe there’s a longer term role for him in Toronto after the season is over?
It’s about time, the Anthony Bennett experiment is over for now. Toronto Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri has finally decided to add a little bit of hopefully useful depth on his bench by picking up veteran 6’11 big man Jason Thompson
Toronto Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri has filled his team’s final open roster spot with the recent NBA number one overall draft pick reclamation prospect Anthony Bennett. This depth of potential was added to a roster that already included two rookies on guaranteed contracts and two returning players that barely played in the NBA last year.