If Cleveland brings back Tristan Thompson on a one-year, qualifying offer, it will be his final season with the team.
The Cavaliers have been negotiating with the breakout star from the 2015 playoffs since the start of free agency over 40 days ago and as the process has stalled, Thompson’s agent Rich Paul has issued an ultimatum.
Thompson can play next season for $6.9 million dollars, ending the stalemate between the 6-foot-9 forward and the club, but would also likely prompt him to find employment elsewhere.
Since the start of free agency, Thompson has been seeking a five-year, $94 million extension, but Cleveland is hesitant to commit such a large portion of its salary cap to a player that likely won’t be in the starting lineup next season.
Cleveland is already $4 million over the NBA salary cap tax threshold and if the team agreed to the deal Thompson was seeking, with an annual salary of $15 million per season, it would have a luxury tax bill alone of $35 million, not including the salary it would have to pay the 24-year-old.
Since Thompson is a restricted free agent, the Cavaliers have the right to match any offer made by another team.
Only two teams have enough cap space to offer Thompson a deal starting around $16 million a year: Portland and Philadelphia, but neither is believed to be in serious negotiations with Thompson.
If he accepted the qualifying offer, the luxury tax bill for the Cavaliers would drop to $13 million for this year and the team would also retain his Bird Rights, a salary cap clause enabling a team resigning a player to offer the longest term contract worth the most money.
The route involving the qualifying offer was last tendered to Pistons forward Greg Monroe last season, playing for $5.8 million instead of agreeing to a long-term deal.
Once the season ended, Monroe became an unrestricted free agent, he signed a three-year $50 million deal with Milwaukee.
Another client of Paul’s, Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe, was locked in a lengthy negotiating session last year.
The two sides went nearly three months without reaching an agreement, and no other team went after Bledsoe knowing the Suns could match their offer, before striking a five-year, $70 million contract.
With Paul representing both Thompson and James, it was believed the Cavaliers would agree to a deal to keep all parties content.
No player was more effective in grabbing offensive rebounds during the 2015 NBA playoffs than Thompson.
During his first playoff run, the former Texas star led all post season performers with 88 offensive rebounds and his 4.4 offensive rebounds per game led all players that appeared in over six post season contests.
His versatility was essential for the Cavaliers to make its second NBA Finals appearance in franchise history, as he filled in as the starting power forward once Love went down for the remainder of the year during the elimination game against Boston in the opening round.
The fourth overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft has averaged 3.4 offensive rebounds per game during his career. In each year of his career, Thompson has pulled down at least three offensive rebounds per game.
When the team dealt for Love last season, Thompson willingly accepted a role as a reserve and flourished offensively.
Thompson converted a career-high 54.7 percent of his attempts from the field, as his 117 dunks ranked as the eighth most in the league.
Even as his minutes were reduced, as the 26.8 minutes per game were his lowest since his rookie year, Thompson was an unstoppable offensive rebounder.
Thompson grabbed 274 offensive rebounds, the fifth most in the league as he and Rudy Gobert were the only players to grab over 250 offensive rebounds while playing less than 30 minutes a night.
The Cavaliers have the ability to decide the long term status of Thompson and no matter what, he has a bright future in the NBA.
The only question is if that future will be in Cleveland.