Ausar Thompson’s path to Rookie of the Year
Ausar is destined to become a dominant force on the defensive side of the ball. His 6-foot-7 frame is accentuated by a 6-foot-10 wingspan. He can effectively guard positions 1-4 and flashes the ability to be a true menace as a help defender. It may have been against the inferior talent of the Overtime Elite but he averaged four “stocks” (combined steals and blocks) per game. He is a prolific shot-blocker for a wing defender. One can tinker with all the Overtime Elite statistics they wish, but the level of competition obscures those numbers to the point of vagary.
The eye test is another story. Thompson has shown his ability to be a defensive playmaker all over the court. He’s a blur who’s going to generate turnovers that will often lead to an easy basket for the Pistons on the other end. His ability to contest shots and make things difficult for whoever he’s guarding may not show up in the box score, but it will contribute to the culture that is evolving in The D.
Dennis Rodman’s fist-pumping hustle was infectious in the 1980s, and his teammates fed off his energy. The same can be said of the impact Ben Wallace’s defensive dominance had on his teammates in the early 2000s. Thompson is neither “The Worm” or “The Fro,” but he is the rare defender who has that kind of upside. As Ausar’s rookie campaign unfolds, should he prove to be the team’s defensive engine, that’ll help to catapult him into the RoY debates proliferating sports media next spring.
To do this he probably needs to lead all rookies in combined steals and blocks (stocks) for the season, which is a possibility, as he averaged 1.8 in the preseason, a number that will go up with increased minutes.
He’s also a plus rebounder for the position, averaging 9.3 rebounds per game in the preseason. Defensive rebounds finish possessions and Ausar has the ability to grab them and go the other way.
Leading rookies in “stocks” while averaging nearly a double-double will get him some attention for RoY.