The wait is over. Tristan Thompson is reportedly coming back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. After missing out on each of the team's preseason games, Thompson and the Cavs have agreed on a five year, $82 million deal. The news comes from Cleveland.com's Chris Haynes, who has been as plugged in as anyone.
It's a lot of money for Tristan Thompson. The 24 year big man will be entering his fifth year in the league with the team that drafted him. Taken as a project big man because of his promise as a rebounding rim protector from the University of Texas, he has seen ups and downs. He famously changed shooting hands two summers ago after struggling to develop range as a left hander. He has played for different coaches and with different big men and different guards. His role has changed.
Through it all Thompson has shown durability and the ability to rebound. He's improved his shooting efficiency each year in the league, and has shown the ability to play both power forward and center. He's getting this money from the Cavs for a number of reasons. He is young and has upside. He has durability on a team that lacks it. He fits in the frontcourt with Kevin Love, who also signed a five year deal with the Cavs recently. He shares an agent with prized teammate LeBron James. The Cavs can't replace him with much more than a mid-level exception should he leave.
But this is also an enormous show of faith from Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers. They will pay major luxury tax dollars for a player who will probably not play more than 26 or 27 minutes a game. They will pay major luxury tax dollars for a player whose offensive value comes from rebounding and the willingness to not use possessions. They will pay major luxury tax dollars for a player who stepped up his rim protection last season, but still leaves much to be desired on that end.
This will immediately reduce pressure on Timofey Mozgov, Kevin Love, and Anderson Varejao as they work their way back from injury. In the long term, it gives the Cavs a core of Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Thompson. That's a pretty good place to be.