• Joey Vayas

What Is Going on With Tristan Thompson?

*Photo via Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers are gearing up to be a heavy favorite in the Eastern Conference in the 2015-16 season yet they have one big question hanging over their team, “What is going on with Tristan Thompson?” Thompson averaged 8.5 points per game and eight rebounds per game last year, but was a critical piece in the Cavs run to the NBA Finals. The Canadian is one of the young building blocks on the Cavs team and is a critical component to their bench success.

So what’s the issue? Money. Money. Money. The Cavs have a payroll nearing $100 million and do not have extra money just lying around, especially after re-signing LeBron James, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert. On top of that, Tristan Thompson wants a max contract after seeing the big money handed out to non-superstars Enes Kanter, Reggie Jackson, and Omer Asik.

Thompson is a key piece to this team even with a healthy Kevin Love, but is he worth the 5 years and $93 million he is asking for? The former 4th overall pick was tied for 35th in the NBA in rebound rate at 17.2, ranking below the likes of Chris Kaman and Kevin Garnett--reminder Garnett is 39 years old. However, Thompson did excel rebounding offensively, ranking 8th in the NBA with a 14.5 offensive rebounding rate.

*Photo via AP

These stats may seem trivial but, the Cavs are a 3-point shooting team and those extra possessions can change the game. The team relies on making runs that can move a tied game to a 10 point lead in less than two minutes. It is an underrated facet of the game that is critical to the Cavs success.

Thompson is also a much better defender than Love and some of the other Cavs big men. He is capable of staying with guards on pick and rolls while also being able to body up with bigger players. Thompson’s stats downplay his impact on the game, he is a quality NBA player.

Is Thompson worth a max contract? Probably not, he is a good rebounder and an above average defender, but nothing more than that. However, with the quickly rising salary cap and the constant need for big men across the NBA, I would be shocked if Thompson does not get a big offer from the Cavs, or maybe if he waits, from another NBA team.

So what happens now? Time will tell, but my prediction is that this is not resolved this year. The current expectation is for Thompson to sign for the qualifying offer of $6.9 million and play out the season. This way, he can be an unrestricted free agent, while the Cavs will have more time to assess his play, and still maintain his Bird rights allowing them to be able to make the biggest contract offer next year. As long as Thompson stays healthy, he’ll make his money eventually.

*Stats and info courtesy of Basketball Reference, ESPN, Fansided

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