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Are The Cavs Hoping Tristan Thompson Takes The Qualifying Offer?

The silence coming out of Cleveland about Tristan Thompson has been deafening ever since talks apparently stalled around a rumored five-year $80 million offer that was supposedly rejected. The longer the stalemate lasts, the more likely Thompson just takes the $6.8 million qualifying offer and cashes in next summer when the NBA Salary Cap and maximum salary he could sign for take a jump approaching 30 percent. Could the Cavs actually be hoping for that scenario?

It’s been assumed Thompson wanted a max deal from the Cavs which would come in closer to $87 million over five years, although the difference in the money makes that scenario seem rather unlikely. Does anyone really believe the Cavs would risk losing Thompson for nothing next summer over what amounts to about $1.2 million per season without a really good reason?

Cavs Nation update on the Thompson situation only serves to highlight the confusion in Cleveland.

The Cavs were largely expected to re-sign Tristan Thompson as soon as they could, but the two sides still haven’t agreed upon a contract.

Thompson really only has two options here, which is to:

A) Take the 5-year, $80 million deal offered to him after he gambled on himself last year by not signing an extension or
B) Sign a $6.8 million Qualifying Offer for the 2015-16 season and become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

This has never been a one-sided issue between player and team. Yes, as a restricted free agent the Cavs can match any offer Thompson’s agent could find and they would. With the Salary Cap set to rise $20 million next summer and $20 million more the summer after that, any long term deal signed now will look like a huge bargain in two years. It would be almost silly to believe the Cavs care if Thompson signs for about $15 million to start or a max $16.4 million. Anything that gets a player beyond the 2017-18 season is worth doing today. The only caveat from the team’s side is a potential luxury tax bill.

The only two players left to re-sign in Cleveland are J.R. Smith and Thompson and with 11 players under guaranteed contracts, the Cavs are almost precisely at the luxury tax line. These last two roster spots have the potential to be very expensive.

Assume Smith comes back on a modest $5 million deal, that will cost the Cavs $7.5 million in luxury tax.

If Thompson takes the assumed five-year deal that puts about $15 million on the table for next year, the luxury tax bill jumps to $45 million in total. Hey, it could have been worse!

But, take another look at this from a team perspective. Thompson is the backup power forward on a star laden team. His salary plus luxury tax hit could come in at $52.5 million for next season alone. Unless someone (Kevin Love) gets hurt (again), his minutes and opportunities to contribute could be limited. But, what if Thompson takes the qualifying offer of $6.8 million?

The Cavaliers could save about $29 million in luxury tax if Thompson takes the qualifying offer and they’d still have his bird rights next summer and could outbid any other team for his services – assuming, of course, he would still be willing to talk to them.

What’s really going on in Cleveland is anyone’s guess, however, the speculation that it’s the Cavs that won’t pony up another $1.2 million to start over their original rumored offer just seems ridiculous. Maybe Thompson is quietly pushing for a trade? Maybe the rumored offer was never really on the table? Maybe the Cavs just don’t want a backup player to cost them over $50 million for next season?

One thing is certain, this situation will get resolved, but neither side has any reason to rush things now. The only event pushing things from Thompson’s side is the upcoming FIBA Americas tournament starting August 29th where he is supposed to be a big part of Canada’s push to secure a spot in the 2016 Olympics. Thompson wants to play for Team Canada this summer and in any negotiation, it usually takes some pressure point to get a decision made and a deal done. In the meantime, it’s just hurry-up and wait.



Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

photo credit Paul Saini



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