Cleveland Cavaliers Power Forward Tristan Thompson and his Agent Rich Paul saw their negotiating leverage with the Cleveland Cavaliers dissipate at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday night.
Paul has continually declared that if the Cavs failed to meet their request for a maximum deal of $94 million dollars over five years, that Thompson would sign the 1-year qualifying offer worth $6.8 million. In an attempt to dissuade the Cavs front office from their course, Paul has expressly forewarned that if Thompson were forced to sign the offer, he would play out the season, become an unrestricted free agent and leave Cleveland.
In Paul’s scenario, Thompson would have no problem inking a max deal elsewhere, considering the influx of cap space teams will be armed with when the NBA’s new television deal takes effect. However, with no deal in place, the deadline came and went with Thompson electing not to sign.
The fact that Paul’s foreboding did not come to fruition, shouldn’t be a surprise. Paul and Thompson have to realize that they overshot their mark on this one. Paul’s threat that Thompson would have shed the wine and gold for good after what could be a championship season, doesn’t hold water for several reasons.
Thompson is not going to start when the Cavs have everyone healthy, and for all the credit he was given for declining last summer’s offer and “betting on himself,” he would have to do it again. To perform at a level that would have his stock even close to where it is now would be a tall order.
Regardless, with all the excess cap room in the NBA, someone could very likely offer the max to Thompson. It shouldn’t matter, even as an unrestricted free agent, under the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Cavs would still be able to offer Thompson more than any other team in the league.
That is all pertaining to the then though, let’s talk about the now.
If Tristan would have signed the qualifying offer as Paul said he would, he would have made around $7 million less than the Cavs proposed, $80 million over five Years offer would pay him this season. The Cavs offer would pay Tristan about $16 million a year on average, while the $94 million over five years max deal, would pay him on average $18.8 million.
Tristan would have lost half of the money he would have gained by holding out for his max deal by playing just one season at the the qualifying offer. The Cavs knew this all along, and have done a good job at remaining steadfast in their agenda, despite Paul’s balking.
The two sides are now free to negotiate whatever deal they can agree on, but until then, Thompson won’t be at training camp.
It’s not really considered a hold-out because there is no contract in place, but that’s what it is. The Cavs do need to tread lightly with their newfangled leverage though.
Do not look for the Cavs to low-ball Thompson, as they know if he ever did leave in free agency, they would never be able to replace him with a player of his caliber as long as Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love remain on the books. Paul will certainly continue to point out that the Cavs bigs are not healthy at the moment, and that they need Thompson back sooner than later.
The difference between what Thompson would make this year under the Cavs proposal and what he what he would make at his max is $2.5 million. The difference is more influential than one might think, as that $2.5 million would cost Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert an additional $12 million in tax penalties for next season alone. And as we all know, Gilbert is already paying a massive amount of money and then some to keep this team intact.
This is why the Cavs declined when Thompson’s camp offered a compromise last week. The deal was really just a shorter version of the max deal, paying Thompson $53 million over three years. The Cavs and Gilbert would still be hit with the same tax implications, while leaving two of Thompson’s prime years off of the contract.
To complicate the situation further, Cavs Center Timofey Mozgov will be a free agent next summer and will be getting similar offers, if not max offers from other teams. The Cavs are highly unlikely to pay both Mozgov and Thompson max money. One would think that Mozgov would be the more likely of the two to get the max deal, as Mozgov can shoot and protects the rim in a way that Thompson cannot.
The $80 million over five years offer is more than fair for a guy that literally doesn’t shoot and would have a hard time finding his place on a team with less talent than the Cavs. Cavs general manager David Griffin is right to play this thing out, as they no longer have to offer a one-year deal, and Thompson certainly can’t afford to sit out a season, just to come back a a restricted free agent again next summer.
The Cavs called Paul’s bluff and as long as they hold steady, despite their banged up front court, they will get what they want in the end.