Not taking the offer on the table might be one of the biggest mistakes Tristan Thompson has ever made, because the closer we get to the beginning of the season, the more money he’s losing for not agreeing to what the Cleveland Cavaliers have been offering him all along.
We’ll keep it simple, because this has been written about quite a lot in this offseason. A restricted free agent, Thompson was coming off a good season and even better playoffs, but also one in which he showed his limitations in a number of aspects. While he’s a very good rebounder, that was about the only special thing he has to offer. Defense is OK, and that’s about it. He can be a liability on offense and from the line. In short, not the kind of player who gets a maximum deal.
But Thompson, with Rich Paul, LeBron James’ agent/friend/partner, asked for the max – $94 million over five season from the Cavaliers, who re-signed everyone, leaving Thompson to the end, because of how the luxury tax works, which means it’s better to make the bigger deals in the end. But the Cavaliers never intended to pay him that much money, never going above $80 million over five seasons.
It’s hard to say these days whether it’s the agent pushing for more money or the player himself. Either way, Thompson didn’t budge, and being a restricted free agent, offers didn’t come in to try and force the Cavaliers hands. Thompson didn’t sign the qualifying offer, while his agent kept bragging on the max contracts waiting for Thompson in 2016 if he signs just the qualifying offer.
No one blinked, and the deadline to sign the qualifying offer passed. In an interesting Q & A with Larry Coon on Basketball Insiders, it’s suggested the Cavaliers no longer want to pay Thompson the $80 million per five years; that offer is no longer on the table. The Thompson-Paul duo tried to compromise with a $53 million over three years deal, but the Cavaliers didn’t bite. They might be looking for the initial $52 million over four seasons.
Maybe Thompson and Paul expected LeBron James to use more leverage and were disappointed. Maybe it’s a case of a player letting some success and a few good headlines go to his head. But he’s not getting a max deal or anything close anymore. Even worse for him, the future deal he’ll get in 2016 grows smaller by the minute as he misses preseason, and might go on missing a chunk of the regular season in his holdout, which is hurting the team, but hurting Thompson a lot more.