The 21-year-old from Brampton, Ont., averaged 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in his rookie season after taking over as the starting forward when Anderson Varejao broke his wrist.
Now he’s ready to increase those averages and help teammate and reigning rookie of the year Kyrie Irving make some noise with the Cavaliers.
“I think I need to take a bigger leadership role,” Thompson said Tuesday while in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League. “(With) Kyrie and myself coming in here we’ve got a lot of young guys so we’re almost like the veterans.
"We’ve got to come in here and show them the ropes, show them right from wrong, really build chemistry.”
Thompson learned lots in a lockout-shortened rookie year. However, he's thankful that the upcoming season won’t have such a rigorous schedule.
“I think this year’s schedule is something that a lot of rookies didn’t expect,” Thompson said. “The rest time was to a minimum, I didn't expect that ... We all came from great colleges and played under great coaches so basketball-wise, I don't think it was that different.”
With Irving sidelined after fracturing his hand during a team practice in Las Vegas, Thompson is setting the example for the rest of his teammates: come early, stay late, work hard.
He's using his off-season not to travel or take time off, but to keep things low key, staying in Cleveland to work out with his team and coaching staff, while focusing on preparing for his sophomore season.
Looking back on his rookie year, Thompson is proud of how his team stuck together despite growing pains on the floor and finishing the season 21-45.
There is still a lot of work to be done in Cleveland, and along with recently drafted rookie Dion Waiters and Irving, the Cavs will depend on Thompson’s ever-evolving game to help them.
Thompson isn't the only Canadian in Las Vegas participating in summer leagues. San Antonio’s Cory Joseph of Toronto, Boston’s Kris Joseph of Montreal, Los Angeles Laker Rob Sacre of North Vancouver, B.C., Toronto's Olu Ashalou playing for the Bucks and Devoe Joseph, playing for his hometown Toronto Raptors.
Andrew Nicholson, a Mississauga, Ont., native who was selected by the Magic with the 19th overall pick in this year’s draft played in the Orlando Summer league, put in a solid showing.
Thompson, the highest Canadian to be drafted in the modern era of the NBA, is proud of the influx of Canadians playing the game at the highest level.
“It means a lot for our country,” he said. “Having the opportunity for so many guys to be a part of NBA summer league. Guys back in the day didn’t have a summer team and would be drooling just for the chance to be here on a summer league bench and now we have guys playing, getting minutes. It’s good for our country.”