Who Wins The Thompson War? The Cavs Do, Of Course

With the recent report from the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the silence between the Cavs and Tristan Thompson’s people is getting icier by the minute, it makes you wonder who in this chess match money war is going to win. Furthermore, the question has to be asked: at the end of the day, will it all have been worth it?

Thompson wants his money. I don’t blame his people for arguing that he is worth it, you sell high. But the overpricing of his talent is not to be confused with money he has earned. Thompson has never been an All-Star. He has never been on an All-NBA team. His stats before LeBron James were consistent. He wasn’t an efficient scorer or free throw shooter. But his rebound numbers were significant.

 Before LeBron Points Rebounds Field Goal % Free Throw %
 2011-12  8.2  6.5  43%  55%
 2012-13  11.7  9.4  48%  60%
 2013-14  11.7  9.2  47% 69%

His one year with LeBron in a contract year has brought Thompson to this line in the sand:

  • 8.5 points, 8 rebounds, 54% field goals, 26.8 minutes.

Ed Davis, in a contract year last season put this up for the Los Angeles Lakers:

  • 8.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 60% field goals, 23.3 minutes.

Ed Davis is making $6.9 million which is not to say he is equal to Tristan Thompson in talent but is Thompson three times better than Davis. In a word: no. The NBA knows it and so do the Cavs. What the Cavs always had on their side that Thompson didn’t have was the market.

All fiscal negotiations are dependent upon market economics. The pricing within that market determines leverage. This free agent summer was never a buyer’s market. LaMarcus Aldridge got a max deal. Kevin Love got a max deal. Jimmy Butler got a max deal. All three players have been All-Stars. The Cavs had comfort in knowing they were bidding against themselves so when they offered Thompson a five year $80 million dollar deal they knew every offer after that would be to their advantage. They counted on the greed in the Thompson camp and they used it against them because, alternatively, the Cavs could go underground and wait for Thomspon to self destruct when that offer was swiped off the table in glee.

The cupboard is not bare in Cleveland which is a boon to the side of the front office. Parenthetically, the Cavs come into this hold-out situation having built something of substance and they did it on the fly. The Timofey Mosgov trade altered the Cavs season, and paired with Kevin Love and a returning Cavaliers staple in Anderson Varejao, the Cavs with Mosgov have depth on their side. Purely from a design perspective, Tristan Thompson fits in nicely but the Cavs don’t need Tristan Thompson as a main front cout attraction. He is a sixth man.

Fact: If LeBron James can get to the NBA Finals with a frontcourt of Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Donyell Marshall, it stands to reason he can bring Love, Varejao and Mosgov with him too.

What if the Cavs come out the gate fast without Thompson? What if their rebounding numbers are on par with last year’s level? What if they don’t miss Tristan Thompson at all? Where is his leverage? What is his play then?

Likewise, if the Love and Varejao and Mosgov trifecta, all coming off injuries, struggle early and if the Cavs lose games because they can’t control what’s happening in the post, then Thompson has more of an argument. He can then say: you need me but even then it is a fallacious proposition. The Cavs are down two starters until January. The Cavs need Kyrie Irving, not Tristan Thompson so as a strategy, hoping for scarcity is like banking on snow in summer. Can it happen? Possibly. Will it happen, probably not.

What was supposed to be a special season has turned sideways. Tristan Thompson himself has let it get so out of control. The season starts in 10 days and no one is holding their breath waiting for Thompson to walk through the Cleveland Cavaliers door and onto the court. Thompson is no one’s idea of a savior even as he’ll make life easier for the Cavaliers, he’ll make life better. LeBron James will be happy to have him back, the fans will applaud him regardless of what he accepts in contract money which is what the Cavs front office knew all along. This is a war of one. Thompson vs. Thompson.

photo via llananba