Training camp started for the Cleveland Cavaliers this week, and while they are a welcome respite from the mediocrity of the Browns or Indians, there is still an issue hanging over the team.
Tristan Thompson isn’t in camp yet and is still seeking a maximum contract, an estimated $94 million over six years. Reportedly, the Cavaliers have countered with $80 million over five seasons.
The problem is that although Thompson is a very good player, providing he is on a very good team, which the Cavaliers are, he isn’t a starter, and would another team pay him that kind of cash.
Remember, before LeBron James returned to the Cavs, Thompson was looked at as a disappointment because his offensive game is basically non-existent.
In 2013-14, Thompson averaged 11.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per night playing in all 82 games, which is a regular occurrence for the former 4th overall pick.
However, if you are counting on him to be a big contributor on the offensive end, forget it. Thompson can score by grabbing offensive rebounds and putting the ball in the basket or by getting a layup or dunk off another player’s penetration.
He can’t create his own shot, and even if he could, you don’t want him taking it.
You see Thompson has made just 36.7% of his shots from more than three feet away in his career. Yes, you read that right, THREE FEET AWAY.
The people who think the Cavs should pay Thompson have usually two agendas. The first is the worry that it would upset LeBron James, and those people have the constant worry than James will leave for free agency again if he isn’t coddled all the time.
The second concern is that this team is poised to win a championship and therefore, any distractions would be counterproductive, so it would be prudent to just give Thompson the cash.
We would counter that by saying that originally James said he would not sign until everyone else came back, but he didn’t wait until Tristan inked his deal. This may mean that although LBJ sides with his fellow players at least publicly, behind the scenes, he thinks Thompson isn’t reasonable with his demand.
The distraction point is kind of insulting to James’ leadership. He is simply not going to let something like this get in the way of a run toward a title.
Is Thompson worth a maximum deal? Of course not. And the Cavs have to look at the fact that if they pay Thompson the money he is looking for, he will be making roughly the same amount of money as Kyrie Irving, a two-time All Star.
And they have to pay Timofey Mozgov next year too, and he is probably more important to the wine and gold because he’s a rim protector (Thompson averages less than a block per game) and a better offensive player.
Thompson is taking a risk if he signs a qualifying offer, not only because he would leave something like $73 million on the table, but also because there are only a limited amount of teams where his style of play makes a difference.
Can you imagine, let’s say Brooklyn giving him a max deal? They will expect something like 16 points and 12 rebounds per night. Thompson isn’t capable of those numbers, so he will get a lot of grief from a new fan base when he plays like Tristan Thompson.
A compromise is needed and we believe it will occur with Thompson getting less than maximum dollars, but getting the long-term deal because he is important to this franchise.
And then he can go out and be appreciated like he should being the player he is for a championship contending team.