I’ll preface this by saying Tristan Thompson is NOT worth a max contract. No 6th man is worth upwards of $18 million a year. Not even Tristan Thompson.
But the hate for Thompson, just because he wants to get paid, has gone too far.
Coming off his rookie deal, Thompson is eligible for a maximum salary of $94 million over five years, or about $18.8 million a year, depending on how the Cavs and Rich Paul, Tristan Thompson’s agent, structure the contract.
At this point in the contract negotiations, the Cavaliers and Thompson are reportedly about $14 million apart. Thompson wants the max, while the Cavs are offering $80 million over 5 years.
Thompson is a restricted free agent (RFA), meaning the Cavaliers can match any offer a team gives to Thompson. So if the Cavaliers don’t come to an agreement with Thompson, his other option is to sign the qualifying offer that Cavs extended him at the beginning of free agency, making him a restricted free agent.
If Thompson signs the qualifying offer, a 1-year contract for about $6 million, he would become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after the 2015-16 season and be able to sign with any team. But then Thompson would be leaving a lot of money on the table, and be playing this season without any long-term contract, a huge risk.
But with the salary cap rising again next season, Thompson could make up the wage gap by signing a max contract next season, which the Toronto Raptors are reportedly willing to offer him. All this depends on Thompson staying healthy and playing well this season, putting the onus on him if he signs the qualifying offer.
But because Thompson isn’t worth the max, his 15.68 PER last season is just above average, fans have gone nuts, calling him a “prima donna,” “entitled,” and much worse than I’m willing to include in this post. Just search “Tristan Thompson” on Twitter and you’ll find hundreds of crazed fans angry at Thompson for wanting to get paid.
Yes he’s probably not worth the max, but all he’s trying to do is get paid. He’s trying to maximize his earning, something no different from what most Americans do on a daily basis. Except his salary is millions of dollars, whereas most American’s isn’t.
Thompson’s a very good NBA player. He’s an outstanding rebounder, especially on the offensive glass, where his 14.4 OREB% was top 10 in the NBA last season. Thompson doesn’t have the greatest offensive game, only averaging 8.5 PPG along with 8.0 RPG last season, but he performed amicably in the playoffs last season in the absence of Kevin Love, posting 0.167 Win Shares per 48 minutes (league average is approximately .100).
The thing about Thompson is, he’s valuable to the Cavaliers as a backup big man, and incredibly effective on the glass. He may not be worth the max, but if he walks in free agency next season, the Cavaliers would have few options to replace him.
And at the end of the day, he’s just trying to maximize his earning. If I was in his situation, I’d try to do the same thing, and so would anyone of the people calling him out. He’s in a high leverage position where he’s able to ask for the max, but so far the Cavaliers haven’t relented, leading to a stalemate.
Should he take less money to stay on a contender? Maybe, but Thompson isn’t a veteran at the tail end of his career looking to win. At 24-years-old, Thompson is just entering his prime.
The future is uncertain for Thompson, and injuries are always a risk. When an NBA player has a chance to earn the max, they should jump at it, because max contracts don’t come around often.
Tristan Thompson has every right to want to the max, whether or not he’s worth it. And to “hate” on him for doing so is absolutely ridiculous. The Tristan Thompson hate has gone too far.
As for the max contract, even if he’s not worth it, I think the Cavaliers should give it to him. With their cap situation, he’s almost irreplaceable next season, as the Cavs are right at the cap and would also have to re-sign Timofey Mozgov. And with the cap increases over the next 2-3 years, Thompson’s contract won’t look so bad in a few years. A few championships is worth a couple million in luxury tax.