At the end of the regular season, Tristan Thompson got signed by the Lakers after spending the year as an analyst with ESPN. After not playing in the first round, he got some spot minutes against the Warriors before spending the first three games of the Western Conference Finals out of the rotation once again.
In Game 4, Thompson was the first big off the bench as Darvin Ham desperately sought out answers against the Nuggets, and Thompson performed rather admirably, albeit in defeat. In 10 minutes of play, Thompson had four points and one rebound, giving L.A. an energy boost on both ends in a game where Anthony Davis was struggling mightily to impact things offensively. Thompson’s main job was to try and bother Nikola Jokic after the big man and the Nuggets had figured out how to exploit the Rui Hachimura matchup, and he did fairly well in that matchup, understanding no one (particularly an aging, undersized center) is going to stop him.
On Wednesday, Thompson was back at his day job with ESPN in the NBA Today studio, and he was asked to offer some firsthand advice to the Heat on how to approach defending the two-time MVP. After getting roasted by Richard Jefferson at the open, they ran through three clips of Thompson having some success against Jokic, where he explained how the most important thing is to do your work early before Jokic gets the ball to keep him off his spots, because when he’s in position he’s mostly unstoppable.
Tristan Thompson brings his firsthand experience guarding Nikola Jokic in the Western Conference Finals to NBA Today. He has some advice for the Miami Heat: pic.twitter.com/L9UVcCAy56
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) May 31, 2023
It’s a good breakdown and is the value of ESPN having a guy like Thompson, who was literally playing a week ago, on staff. It also highlights why defending Jokic over a seven-game series is so incredibly difficult, because you see how hard Thompson is working on every single possession. He could do that because he was only playing 10 minutes in that game, but to do that for a full series takes a ton out of opposing bigs and requires significant frontcourt depth (something Miami doesn’t have). Jokic, meanwhile, isn’t expending nearly as much energy as Thompson is trying to move him off his spot, which is part of why the big man has been so good late in games this postseason.
Still, this is what is required when facing Jokic, constant work to make him uncomfortable and keep him from getting the ball where he wants it on the court. It’s easier said than done, especially over a full series, but this will be what Bam Adebayo and company will be tasked with trying to do starting Thursday night.