All summer long there has been a lingering contract negotiation between the Cleveland Cavaliers and power forward Tristan Thompson. Thompson, who played at an incredible level during the playoffs, was asking for a max contract of $94 million over five years. The Cavs were offering him five years, $80 million instead.
Now, to the common fan, Thompson appears to be just a bench player, with minimal scoring ability and an above average rebounder. Lots of people did not believe Thompson is worth anywhere near his asking price. Ultimately, after a long dragged out negotiation, just one week before the start of the NBA season, the Cavs and Thompson agreed to a deal. The contract will be five years, $82 million. Whether or not he was worth this big contract is to be seen, but in this moment, giving Thompson this amount of money was the correct decision.
For anyone who watched the playoffs, everyone can agree that the Cavs would not have made it as far as they did without Thompson. In the absence of Kevin Love, Thompson stepped up and played great basketball, constantly creating second chances for the offense and playing good defense inside the paint.
Thompson caught alley-oops and got a lot of his points off of put backs. Had Thompson not played so well, the Cavs would have probably been relying on James Jones to carry a lot of the load at power forward. The most important member of the Cavs organization, LeBron James, backed Thompson for most of the summer and most likely had a lot of influence on why Tristan was given such a large contract.
Going forward, the Cavs need Thompson. Although he will probably come off the bench for most of the years under his new contract, he will provide irreplaceable energy off the bench and give the Cavs a legitimate big man to step up in time of injury (which we’ve seen can be a problem for the Cavs).
It would not be surprising to see a lineup consisting of Love at the power forward position and Thompson playing center throughout the season. That lineup would give the Cavs a serious advantage on the glass. Thompson can serve as the Cavs’ Dennis Rodman type player for years to come. Thompson is a good example of a player doing all of the dirty work and receiving little glory and recognition for it, which is why he got paid so handsomely.
Being a gritty defensive player, relentless on the boards, taking charges, diving for loose balls, those are the types of big plays Thompson will bring to the Cavs for years to come. Ask any championship team, those types of plays are just as important as any others when making a title run.
Cleveland's main goal is to win a championship and win it now. By making this decision to pay Tristan Thompson, they put themselves in the best position to do so. Dan Gilbert was willing to open up his wallet in order to win. The Cavs have made themselves much deeper this offseason by adding Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson, and Sasha Kaun.
Had they not retained their players from last season like Iman Shumpert, Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova, and J.R. Smith, their chances of winning a championship would be very slim.
This season, the Cavaliers are the closest a Cleveland sports team has been to winning a championship since the Indians in the mid 90’s, and retaining Tristan Thompson has solidified them as the favorites and made them an even scarier team than they already were.