Tristan Thompson still hasn’t signed a new deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but things are starting to get real. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst wrote about the situation on Monday, reporting Thompson is looking for a five-year max deal worth $94 million and also saying taking the one-year qualifying offer is a real possibility.
Now we have this:
To clarify earlier tweet: Thompson negotiations are on-going BUT — if he has to settle for QO offer, he will not return to Cavs in 16-17
— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) August 10, 2015
Tristan Thompson signing QO w/ #Cavs hasn't been decided yet, I'm told. But if he signs it, told it would be last season he plays as a Cav.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) August 10, 2015
This appears to be a major leverage play by Thompson and his agent, Rich Paul, who’s also LeBron James‘s agent. It was reported on the first day of free agency that Thompson was nearing a five-year, $80 million deal, but Thompson wants more. Now his camp is threatening to walk if he signs the one-year, $6.78 million qualifying offer and becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The Cavaliers inked Kevin Love to a big contract this summer, but Thompson remains a very important part of their rotation and is just 24 years old. Timofey Mozgov could walk in free agency next summer, so having Love and Thompson locked up long term would ease the sting of losing Mozgov if he walked.
Thompson signing the qualifying offer would significantly ease Cleveland’s tax burden next year, but then the Cavaliers would run the risk of this threat not being a bluff (they also wouldn’t be able to trade him without his consent). Would they really take that chance? On the other hand, would Thompson really leave LeBron next summer even if Cleveland came back with a lucrative long-term offer?
Paul has a history of playing hardball in negotiations. We’ll see who blinks first.