The start of the NBA season is just over a week away, yet the Cavs have still made little-to-no progress on the Tristan Thompson front. In fact, both sides have essentially gone dark after the deadline for Thompson to sign a one-year qualifying offer worth $6.8 million passed earlier this month.
Thompson and his agent Rich Paul (who is also LeBron James’ agent) passed on the qualifying offer Cleveland extended because they believe Thompson is worth a max contract, or at least something approaching that. Cavs executives aren’t so sure. They’ve gone through several rounds of negotiations already, which included Thompson and his agent softening their stance on the original five-year, $94 million max deal they were demanding, in favor of a more modest three-year, $53 million offer. But Cavs brass balked at that as well.
The only question now is how long the front office will allow this to continue to be a “distraction” for the team (as LeBron put it recently). They basically have two options left at this point, only one of which is actually viable. They could stand firm and allow Thompson to sit out the entire season, which would be disastrous on two fronts. First, the general consensus is that Cleveland doesn’t stand a chance at winning the title without his defense and rebounding, two key reasons why the depleted Cavs made it as far as they did in the postseason last spring.
Second, it would make Thompson a restricted free agent next summer when the salary cap continues to spike and several rival teams would ostensibly have the capital to either steal him away or force the Cavs to pony up. But it’s hard to imagine teams lining up to offer Thompson a max deal after sitting out an entire season. Then again, it’s hard to imagine the Cavs actually allowing to get to that point while running the very real risk of alienating LeBron.
And this is where their enigmatic owner Dan Gilbert might come in handy. He’s been conspicuously quiet on the matter thus far, but now might be the time to use his considerable clout to bring this ordeal to a resolution. Via Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:
The debates, the arguments on what Thompson is truly worth have been dissected ad nauseam and will continue to be as long as this persists. That’s why Gilbert’s involvement is needed to help resolve this matter. He could take on the moniker of the NBA’s “Mr. October.”
After all, Thompson was Gilbert’s guy. Drafting Thompson was at Gilbert’s recommendation. He fell in love with the kid’s potential and personality as soon as he met him at a predraft workout.
For all the talk about LeBron and the rest of the team being professional through this process, it is undeniably bad for morale. Not only is Thompson Gilbert’s guy; Thompson is more importantly LeBron’s guy. And the Cleveland Cavaliers have had one job and one job only since LeBron returned in the summer of 2014: Keep LeBron happy.
Admittedly, the Cavs are already leveraged to the gills. That’s a legitimate concern. Their current payroll is already over $100 million before you even start to factor in whatever Thompson’s contract ends up being. But what they really can’t afford to do is try and protect their future by threatening to squander their present. Gilbert has claimed that he’s learned from his previous mistakes. Now is the time to put his money where his mouth is.