He reportedly wants the max, worth more than $94 million over five years.
But when he let his qualifying offer expire…
The Cavs were under no obligation to leave their $80 million offer on the table, and from what I heard, pulled it as soon as Thompson’s qualifying offer expired.
In a vacuum, this is the right move.
One of Thompson’s biggest pieces of leverage was the qualifying offer – the ability to take a one-year contract and become an unrestricted free agent next year. The Cavaliers had to offer him more to protect against that outcome. If he leaves next summer with no return, that’d be a real blow to Cleveland.
Without the qualifying offer available, the Cavs have much more leverage now. Thompson remains a restricted free agent and, unless the Trail Blazers or 76ers suddenly step up with an offer sheet, has little recourse but to accept whatever Cleveland offers. If he sits out the full season, he’ll miss a year of earnings and become a restricted free agent all over again next July.
In this scenario, $80 million over five years is way to much to offer. The Cavaliers definitely don’t need Thompson right now. If they get by without him once the regular season begins, he’s far more likely to cave to a lower offer. If they need him later, they can always pay him. There’s just no reason to do so yet. He can’t force their hand without the qualifying offer.
But LeBron James looms over everything.
LeBron – who shares an agent, Rich Paul – with Thompson reportedly isn’t basing his future in Cleveland on these negotiations. He just might not care that much whether Thompson gets $80 million, $94 million or somewhere in between.
However, LeBron is keeping himself in the picture (literally). He might not look so kindly on the Cavs lowering their offer, even if it’s the right cold strategic position.
If the Cavaliers have reduced their offer, this stalemate could easily last months. LeBron might be the only person who ensures it doesn’t get that far. His influence could at least get both sides back in the same ballpark.