Tristan Thompson wouldn’t re-sign with the Cavaliers as an unrestricted free agent next year if he were to take sign his qualifying offer, worth nearly $6.778MM, this summer, as agent Rich Paul tells Michael Grange of SportsNet (Twitter links). That would appear to indicate that the Canadian native is adamant about signing a lucrative, long-term deal before the start of this coming season rather than trying his luck next summer, even though the cap is expected to surge. The former No. 4 overall pick is believed to be seeking maximum-level salaries, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, but a starting salary of the $16,407,500 max for a player of his experience would cost the Cavs more than $35MM in tax penalties on top of that amount this year, Windhorst estimates.
The Cavs probably haven’t seen the qualifying offer as their preferred route, Windhorst speculates, and given Paul’s statement today, Cleveland has further reason to strike a long-term deal. Still, the Cavs have been offering significantly less than the max, according to Windhorst, and shelling out the max over the long term for a player who chiefly came off the bench behind the newly re-signed Kevin Love might be reason for pause. Thompson averaged only 8.5 points per game in the regular season this past year, though his strength is rebounding and off-the-ball work.
Paul is no stranger to tough negotiations with restricted free agents after last season’s tense back-and-forth with the Suns that resulted in Eric Bledsoe signing a five-year, $70MM deal. Kevin Seraphin, another Paul client, signed his qualifying offer from the Wizards last summer and wound up inking with the Knicks last week. Still, it’s surprising to see Paul and Thompson take such a hard line against the qualifying offer, even though it would entail a playing for a discount this season, since signing it would set up Thompson to become a member of a fairly thin crop of 2016 free agents, outside of Kevin Durant and a few other notables, just as the salary cap is projected to spike to $89MM.
The Cavs are in a tough spot, since LeBron James, Paul’s marquee client, has expressed that he wants Thompson in Cleveland, and James can opt out of his new contract in a year. Thompson and the Cavs were reportedly close to a deal worth more than $80MM on the first day of free agency, but progress stalled. Thompson reportedly asked for $85MM over five years, after initial reports indicated that Draymond Green received that much from the Warriors, but Green wound up with $82MM instead.
In any case, Cavs GM David Griffin said in mid-July that he remained confident the sides would strike a deal. The Trail Blazers and Sixers are the only teams left with enough cap flexibility to approach the max for Thompson, and Windhorst identified the Blazers as the one team remaining that’s a “remote option” for Thompson this year, aside from the Cavs, who hold his Bird rights.
Do you think Thompson and Paul are wise to dismiss the qualifying offer, or do you think it would be advantageous for him to sign it? Leave a comment to let us know.