There are roughly three things you could say Tristan Thompson does at an elite level: rebounding, switching on to opposing guards and setting screens.
Thompson is ferocious on the glass. Has been for years. He turned the Celtics' front line into a group of toddlers in the playoffs. His ability to stick with smaller, quicker guards on the perimeter helps the Cavs guard teams like the Warriors. And his screen-setting chops, mostly for LeBron or Kyrie, is a key part of some of the Cavaliers' offensive sets.
There's another skill that the former Texas Longhorn has been honing, and while it's not quite used frequently enough to earn elite status, it's become just another part of why Thompson continues to thrive as a part of the Cavs's offense despite being incredibly limited: his passing.
Thompson has become adept at making the right pass, whether he's catching the ball at the elbow or receiving it in motion as he rolls to the hoop after setting a screen. Thompson's ability to think on his feet, identify the open man and get him the ball, all without barreling over an opponent and earning an offensive foul, has given the Cavs a new wrinkle to throw into their offensive sets every now and again.
Here's a perfect example of how Thompson's improved passing leads to buckets. In Game 4 of the Cavs opening round series against the Pacers, Thompson began a 2nd quarter possession by setting a screen for Irving. After starting to roll to the rim, Irving hit Thompson with a pass. Thompson paused for a minute and saw that Paul George had sagged off LeBron to get in front of him. So Thompson faked a pass, getting George in the air and allowing LeBron to cut to the rim. Thompson hit him perfectly with a pass at the free throw line, and LeBron waltzed to the rim for 2.
Two rounds later, against the Boston Celtics in the ECF, Thompson had a couple of nice moments involving some impressive passing on back-to-back possessions in Game 1. First, in the clip above, Thompson set a high screen for Irving, got the ball on the roll, pulled a spin move on Kelly Olynk and found Kevin Love all by himself at the 3-point line.
On the following possession, Thompson again went to set a high screen for Irving. As Irving saw Thompson's man cheating off him to get a head start on containing him, he hit Thompson with a pass, then immediately cut to the basket. Thompson found him with a gorgeous bounce pass that led to a lay-up.
Thompson's gotten confident enough in his dishing ability that he's even added a little extra pizzaz. In the second round against the Raptors, LeBron found Tristan chilling in the paint as he drove the baseline, and got Thompson the ball. As the entire defense collapsed on him, Thompson whirled around and kicked a no-look pass to Irving who was alone in the right corner for 3.
Thompson has 13 assists this postseason, which is not a huge number. He is still used primarily as a screener on offense and doesn't always receive the ball once he rolls. But dig a little deeper and those 13 assists start to mean a little more. Thompson has accounted for 22 potential assists, and the Cavs have scored 34 points off Thompson's assists, good for 2.61 points per assist.
With at least four more games to go, those numbers should increase even more. In last year's playoffs, Thompson totaled 15 assists that were good for 37 points. Thompson did that in 21 postseason games last season, while he's put his current numbers up in just 13 this year.
Passing won't ever be an enormous part of Thompson's game, but much like his other skills, he's starting to get really good at it.