Just how much power does LeBron James wield in the Cavaliers organization?
And by extension how much sway does his agent, Rich Paul – who says LeBron considers the agency and other clients to be family – hold in Cleveland?
Tristan Thompson really want to know.
Paul cleared the way for LeBron’s return to the Cavaliers, and no matter how much they’ve struggled so far, they should be grateful to land an NBA superstar. One of the ways they could express their gratitude is awarding Thompson, another client of Paul’s Klutch Sports agency, a hefty new contract.
It seems they tried.
Thompson turned down a $13-million-a-year extension offer – four-year, $52 million, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
This would explain the optimism leading up to the Oct. 31 deadline for Thompson to sign an extension. That’s a very generous offer, one that would have ranked highly among his class – below Kyrie Irving (five years, $89 million-$98 million), Klay Thompson (four years, $70 million), Ricky Rubio (four years, $55 million) and Nikola Vucevic (four years, $54 million) and above Kenneth Faried (four years, $50 million), Kemba Walker (four years, $48 million), Alec Burks (four years, $42 million-$45 million), Markieff Morris (four years, $32 million), Marcus Morris (four years, $20 million) and all the other players who didn’t get extensions.
It’s hard to see Thompson as worth $13 million per season. He moves well for his size, and that gives him defensive versatility and creates offensive opportunities. But not even two years ago, he didn’t know which hand was best for shooting. He clearly has his limits.
It’s easy to pin this on Thompson and Paul getting greedy, trying to leverage LeBron’s influence too far. And that might be the case.
But there’s also a chance Thompson is taking a smart risk. He could accept Cleveland’s $6,777,589 qualifying offer this summer and become an unrestricted free agent in 2016, just as the NBA’s salary cap skyrockets under the new national TV deals. There’s no guarantee that plan would benefit Thompson, but there’s also a chance $13 million for a player of his caliber would be a bargain in that new environment.
And if Thompson and Paul were just leveraging the LeBron connection, well, that won’t be vanishing when Thompson and Cleveland talk contract again this offseason. If the Cavaliers were willing to overpay Thompson in October because of LeBron, why wouldn’t they still be willing to in July because of LeBron?