With neither side willing to budge over the last few months, the Cleveland Cavaliers and power forward Tristan Thompson remain deadlocked in negotiations over a contract extension as training camp for the new season quickly approaches.
According to ESPN, the restricted free agent and the Cavs are separated by $14 million, with Thompson seeking a five-year $94-million deal but Cleveland only willing to offer $80 million. Since talks began back in July, there has been little to no movement.
Unless the two sides can reach some sort of compromise before training camp, Thompson may have to entertain the idea of signing Cleveland’s one-year qualifying offer of $6.9 million and then become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
However, Thompson’s agent, Rich Paul, who is a friend and business partner of LeBron James, stated to ESPN last month that if Thompson is left with no other choice but to sign the qualifying offer that he will not re-up with the Cavs in 2016.
Thompson’s leverage in the negotiations rests largely on his age and the fact that he’s played well in any given situation. After starting two straight years Thompson took a back seat once Kevin Love arrived before last season, but the 24-year-old big man became one of the Cavs leading bench players.
Then after a serious shoulder injury bumped Love out of the postseason, Thompson lit up opposing frontlines for 9.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks while shooting 55.8 percent from the field. He was especially lethal in the NBA Finals against the smaller Golden State Warriors, notching four straight double-doubles in the last four games of the series.
Thompson’s case for $20 million a season is further strengthened by injuries to the Cavs frontcourt. Love will just be out of the woods of his recovery from shoulder surgery, while Anderson Varejao and Timofey Mozgov also underwent surgeries in the offseason.
Thompson, on the other hand, has been Cleveland’s most durable and healthy young star. He only missed six games in the deadlock-shortened 66-game 2011-12 season. Since then, Thompson is the only members of the Cavs to play in every game over the last three seasons.
However, the Cavs evidently believe they are offering Thompson a deal at full market value and they already face a heavy luxury tax bill for next season. Cleveland re-signed Love for $113.2 million over five years, James for $46.9 million over two years, and promised another $50 million between guards Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith over the next four seasons.
Next season the Cavs are expected to have the highest payroll in the league at $94.8 million, according to Spotrac.com, with more than $59 million, or 62 percent, tied to James, Love, and point guard Kyrie Irving.