Tristan Thompson reportedly rejected a five-year, $80 million contract offer from the Cavaliers.
So just how much does he want?
Apparently, $94,343,125 – a max contract – and not a penny less.
A league source tells me that his agent, Rich Paul, has already made it clear to the Cleveland Cavaliers that Thompson will not sign a long-term deal unless it is a max deal. And otherwise, he is prepared to sign a one-year qualifying offer with the additional knowledge, according to the source, that Paul believes that he can get a max deal with the Raptors next summer.
I don’t think Thompson is worth a max contract in a vacuum, even accounting for the skyrocketing salary cap. He’s an excellent rebounder, versatile defender and can score near the rim. But he has little shooting range and doesn’t protect the rim as well as he should.
Of course, Thompson and Cleveland don’t operate in a vacuum.
If the Cavaliers lose Thompson, they won’t have cap space to sign a near-equal outside replacement. They can keep Thompson only because they have his Bird Rights. That gives Thompson considerable leverage, only somewhat related to his production.
So does his relationship with Paul, who also represents LeBron James. The Cavaliers surely want to keep LeBron happy, and LeBron said Thompson should spend the rest of his career in Cleveland.
Maybe Thompson would ultimately settle for less than the max before the Oct. 1 deadline to accept the qualifying offer, but there’s little reason to do so now. Thompson should posture that he wants the max. Maybe the Cavs will blink first. If Thompson compromises, he should wait a month to do so. (Knowing that, Cleveland will be loathe to up its offer any time soon.)
Simply waiting will get Thompson further than this Toronto threat. Maybe the Raptors are interested in Thompson, a native Canadian. They could improve at power forward, but they don’t project to have enough cap space to offer Thompson the max. The easiest way for them to clear salary is DeMar DeRozan opting out, but that would create a hole on the wing that should take precedent over a power forward upgrade.
Plus, a max for Thompson next summer – when the new national TV contracts kick in – will be much higher. It’s one thing for the capped-out Cavaliers to pay him more than $94 million. It’s another for a team with cap room to pursue any free agent to pay him more than $89 million over four years.
If Dan Gilbert is willing to spend the real dollars – and it seems the Cavaliers owner is – paying Thompson the max is justifiable cap-wise. Paul knows this, and he’s clearly not giving the Cavs a break. Paul has already threatened that, if Thompson accepts the qualifying offer, the forward will leave Cleveland next summer. If Paul is floating the Raptors as a potential destination, that’s probably just an attempt to worry the Cavaliers a little more.
Maybe the Cavaliers, to avoid losing Thompson for nothing, just give him the max now.
If they don’t, Paul will surely try a different method to convince them to do it.