Cavs Forward Tristan Thompson Explains Why He Switched Shooting Hands

Cavaliers third year forward Tristan Tompson is attempting that which has never been attempted by a player in NBA history: he’s switching his shooting hand mid-career. The 6-9 22-year-old didn’t attempt many shots outside of 10 feet last season, but he feels his youth will allow him to transition easier. As recounted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the real impetus behind the change might have to do with his home country.

Keep in mind, this guy is in the freakin’ NBA!! Last season, the young front court player — and likely starter next season over No. 1 pick Anthony Bennet — made close to 49 percent of his field goals…with the wrong hand. Yes, he also shot less than 100 of his 799 attempts outside of 10 feet, but when he was lobbing the ball up with his left-hand, it was going in almost 50 percent of the time, which is impressive regardless of distance.

Something to keep in mind, too. Of the scant 11 shots (per NBA.com) that Thompson attempted outside of 16 feet, a large percentage of them — and all three he made — occurred with the right hand, but it was a push-shot similar to Shawn Marion.

Thompson alludes to his upbringing in Toronto, Canada for his disinclination towards shooting left-handed. The foundation for the switch, he believes, lies in his late start in the game:

“I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but I think the transition is going more smoothly than one might assume, which probably means I was always right-handed and just never knew, probably because I lived in Canada,” he said, which isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds.


“I started playing basketball at such a late age,” said Thompson, who didn’t take basketball seriously until he was 12 or 13. “In America, you start playing when you’re 5 years old.”

But the Cavs have supported the unusual off-season agenda despite it’s lack of precedent.

“At the end of the season I evaluated it, went through the pros and cons, and I felt that, especially being so young in my career, I still have a lot of room to grow,” Thompson told the Plain Dealer when he arrived back in Cleveland for training camp this week. “I wanted to take on that challenge and made the switch, and the Cavs supported me.

Here is Thompson shooting right-handed:

Shooting left-handed:

In the gif below, Thompson can’t really decide which hand to shoot with as the shot clock winds down. So he forces up a horrendous looking shot with his left-hand that is so muddled it looks as if he’s passing to the defender underneath the basket.

He’ll never be a stretch 4 like Ryan Anderson, but the switch could work — primarily at the free throw line where he shot just 60.8 percent last season, up from the 55 percent mark his rookie year.

Here’s Thompson shooting with his right hand during warmups with Team Canada in this summer’s FIBA qualifying games.

It’s too early to tell whether he’s vastly better or worse, but it’ll be fun to keep an eye out during the year. Plus, there’s such a small sample size outside of 10 feet, which should probably continue while he gets comfortable with the new hand.

How do you think Thompson will do from the field next season?

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