Tristan Thompson and the Cleveland Cavaliers are in one of the strangest stalemates of the NBA offseason.
After Thompson was reportedly nearing an $US80 million deal with the Cavaliers, things suddenly turned quiet between the two sides for weeks and nobody knew why.
Michael Grange of Sportsnet reported on Monday afternoon that Thompson will take the one-year, $US6.8 million qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent next summer:
Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group clarified that the discussions are ongoing, but Thompson would supposedly leave after this season if he doesn’t get a long-term deal:
Thompson entered the summer a restricted free agent, meaning the Cavaliers could match any offer he received from another team. Under normal circumstances, restricted free agents have almost no bargaining power since their they can sign an offer sheet from other teams, but still be retained by their original teams.
However, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported on Monday, the Thompson-Cavs impasse was different this year because of the impending salary cap boom next year when the NBA signs its new TV deal.
Windhorst reported that Thompson was seeking a max contract of $US94 million this summer while the Cavs were offering “significantly less.” With the salary cap expected to jump from $US70 million to $US88 million next summer, there’s never been a better time in the NBA to be a free agent. Thompson’s has two viable options: 1) get a max contract this summer before it becomes much more expensive next summer (max salaries are tied to a percentage of the salary cap), and 2) take the one-year qualifying offer this summer, become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and start a bidding war when at least 20 teams will have cap space to offer a max contract.
It’s not such an easy decision for the Cavaliers. As Windhorst notes, with five players — LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, and Anderson Varejao — making over $US10 million next season, the Cavs are already $US4 million over the tax line. Signing Thompson to a contract that averages $US15 million per year could cost them over $US35 million in taxes — virtually unprecedented territory.
Still, if Thompson takes the qualifying offer, it would be a huge blow to the Cavs. Haynes and Grange have both reported that Thompson’s agent, Rich Paul, says he will leave if he’s forced to take the one-year deal. During the postseason, LeBron — who is also repped by Paul — was already publicly endorsing the Cavs re-signing Thompson, saying he could be a Cav for life. Losing Thompson would not only upset LeBron, it would cost the capped-out Cavaliers a talented player they couldn’t easily replace.
We’ll update this post when more details emerge.
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