The holdout of Tristan Thompson in Cleveland has finally ended.
A week before the start of the regular season, as the Cavaliers begin their road back to the NBA Finals in Chicago on Tuesday night, the two sides finally came to an agreement.
Even though Thompson will only be a spot starter, he signed a five-year, $82 million contract.
The lengthly negotiating process prevented the 22-year-old from participating in training camp and forced him to miss the entire pre-season slate of games.
The representatives of Thompson previously said their client wouldn’t play for anything less than a maximum contract, but the team had few options in free agency this year, as the only teams with maximum cap space after the opening week of free agency were Philadelphia and the Trail Blazers.
Cleveland called the bluff, countering with a five-year, $80 million deal, $14 million below the most it could possibly offer.
Neither appeared to be interested in signing Thompson to such a large contract, forcing Thompson to rethink his negotiating tactics.
Thompson’s agent, Rich Paul, presented a counteroffer to the Cavaliers, hoping they would agree to a shorter term contract, but still at the maximum level, as he lowered the demands to $54 million over three years.
Teams in rebuilding mode, specifically the 76ers and Portland, weren’t pursuing Thompson. As the start of the regular season approached, the absence of Thompson was dubbed a distraction by LeBron James.
The fit of Thompson in Cleveland is an obvious one, as he has a clearly defined role on the team. All the team needs from him is to grab rebounds then defend power forwards and centers in the post.
Only without an elite ability to block shots, few teams would sign him to the contract he was seeking.
Thompson is at his best collecting missed shots from his own team, as he has averaged 3.4 offensive rebounds per game.
In the absence of Kevin Love, as he went down with a shoulder injury four games into the playoffs, Thompson proved to be the most dominant offensive rebounder in the 2015 post season, leading all performers with a total of 88 offensive rebounds.
Cleveland started Thompson in 15 of its 20 post season appearances, and he responded by averaging 9.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
Against Golden State in the championship round, no one could box out the former Texas star, as he pulled down an average of 13 rebounds per game and managed at least 10 rebounds in each of the six games in the 2015 NBA Finals.
If any other team signed Thompson, there would be massive expectations for him to elevate his offensive game. He converted 267 shots last season, 141 of the came off dunks.
The trio of Love, James and Kyrie Irving alleviates much of the pressure placed on Thompson to expand his offensive game.
The trio of All-Star caliber players accounted for 54.4 percent of the total points scored by Cleveland last season. Other players are already in place to help supplement the offense, such as J.R. Smith and Mo Williams.
The Cavaliers tacked on an additional $2 million to their original offer, bringing the annual salary of Thompson to $16.4 million, nearly five more than his career high in points per game.
Thompson’s massive contract literally raised eyes around the league.
Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins went to Twitter with the message above immediately following the announcement of Thompson’s deal.
Cousins, a first time All-Star that averaged 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.5 steals per game during the first season of a four-year, $62 million contract extension he signed in 2013.
The retention of Thompson vaulted the Cavaliers to the highest payroll in the NBA, as the team has $115 million committed in salary.
Once luxury taxes are accounted for, Cleveland will actually dole out $170 million and the budget isn’t going to relent any time soon.
The team already has eight players pulling in an annual salary of eight figures during the 2018-19 season, with Love and James combining to make $30 million that year between the two.
Thompson is going to be the most handsomely paid role player in the NBA over the next few years, but if his play contributes to the first title in Cavaliers franchise history, it’ll be worth every penny.