Tristan Thompson is, as we speak, the highest profile free agent still technically available this offseason. He is “technically” available because he is still restricted, and because all signs are pointing to the Cavs re-signing him. His camp, including agent Rich Paul, have not yet agreed to terms on what they consider to be a low-ball offer from the team, and have threatened that the 2015 season would be his last as a Cavalier if he is forced to take a qualifying offer of roughly $7 million for the 2015-16 season. With all of the talk between the two parties, the question of whether or not Thompson is replaceable has come up…and the answer is no.
Thompson is, and has been, the one big guy on our team that we can be confident in knowing what to expect. He doesn’t have Love’s skill or Mozgov’s size, and nobody really knows how Anderson Varejao will look after his Achilles injury. With Thompson, though, Cavs fans can count on hustle, offensive rebounding, finishing alley-oops, and playing every night. He is without question our most durable player having played in 326 out of a possible 326 games in his four-year career.
The high-energy bench players that play in the post, rebound with volume, and guard multiple positions are somewhat of
an outlier in today’s NBA. Players like Kenneth Faried and Draymond Green may offer similar versatility on defense, but they don’t rebound like Thompson does. The players that do rebound like Thompson, tend to struggle in pick-and-roll defense, and aren’t as capable of switching out on smaller players as Thompson is. He demonstrated this in the Finals, although the strategy itself could be argued against.
The Cavs having not yet agreed to an extension is somewhat confusing. The Cavs could offer him a 1-year, $6.8 million qualifying deal to keep him this year, but he would be unrestricted next year, and would command more money with the ever-rising salary cap. While the Cavs front office may be reluctant to give him the $90 million plus that he and Rich Paul are asking for, it may actually be the least expensive way to keep him in the long haul. Sure, it’ll cost the Cavs over $46 million in taxes this season, but in not signing him this offseason, we would do so at the risk of 29 other teams recruiting him throughout this season and next offseason, and with plenty of cash to throw at him.
The Cavs should pay Thompson what he is asking for, and they should do so immediately. Thompson was bold enough last year to turn down an extension because he thought he could outplay the offer. He did that, and has earned the leverage that he has to pursue the deal that he wants. There isn’t anyone like him on this team, and his consistency will prove itself to be worth the dollar amount. He will only be more expensive next offseason, and if LeBron has the ear of the front office, then Thompson should be a Cavalier for life.