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Should Cleveland Cavaliers Offer Tristan Thompson an Extension?

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 12: Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gets introduced into the starting lineup against the Sacramento Kings on January 12, 2014 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Greg SwartzCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterApril 12, 2014

While many are focused on Kyrie Irving's upcoming extension offer, it's important not to forget about the other young Cleveland Cavalier eligible for a raise.

Tristan Thompson can also sign an extension this summer and should see a hefty raise from the $4 million he's making this season. The third-year forward is averaging 11.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game for Cleveland.

While Thompson has been a reliable rebounder and hustle player during his time with the Cavs, he's shown little to no improvement over the past year. He's very limited offensively and hasn't turned into the defensive force many hoped he'd become.

So, should the Cavaliers extend Thompson this summer? If so, for how much?

 

Future in Cleveland?

Despite his lack of improvement, Thompson does mean a lot to the Cavs. He's tied for first among all forwards in offensive rebounds (3.3 per game, via ESPN.com), and is ninth overall in total rebounding (9.2 per game).

From a personality standpoint, Thompson is the ideal teammate and role model. He's always working, staying positive and has yet to say a bad word about the city of Cleveland.

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates after scoring against the Brooklyn Nets during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on October 30, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges a
Jason Miller/Getty Images

While he doesn't have the upside of most of the starting power forwards in the league, the Cavs could do a lot worse than a hard-working, double-double machine who's still just 23 years of age.

Cleveland should definitely want to extend Thompson, but at what price?

 

Skill Set

Many contracts in all professional sports can be based off of other players' previous deals who matched up similarly by position and skill set.

Before we identify which players Thompson most closely resembles, we need to assess his abilities.

Rebounding was previously touched on, and remains the best part of Thompson's game. When discussing a new deal, his agent should be quick to note Thompson is one of the best offensive rebounders in the game and already top-10 in the league at cleaning the glass.

Durability isn't an issue for Thompson. He's yet to miss a game the past two years for Cleveland, which is a huge plus for a team that's seen players like Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving often bit by the injury bug.

Offensively, Thompson's high-profile switch from left- to right-handed jump shots has been a bit underwhelming. While his free-throw shooting has seen a nice increase (60.8 percent last season to 69.3 percent this year), his shooting still leaves much to be desired. Last season as a lefty, Thompson connected on 37.5 percent of his mid-range shots. This year as a righty, he's actually seen a decrease in his success down to 35.9 percent.

Defensively, one can't help but be disappointed in Thompson's performance. While he's not a bad defender by any means, it's safe to say the Cavs have expected more. In his one season at the University of Texas, Thompson averaged 2.4 blocks per game. Even during his rookie season with the Cavaliers, Thompson was swatting back 1.6 shots per 36 minutes. This year, that number is down to 0.5 per 36 minutes of play. This ranks him just 39th in the NBA among all qualified power forwards (via ESPN.com)

So put it all together and what do you have? An active, durable rebounding power forward with a limited offensive game who's shown little progression over the past year.

What's the going rate on those?

 

Comparable Contracts

Here are some other young big men who have recently received contract extensions from their original teams, and what kind of stats they were putting up at the time.

PlayerContract Year Stats (per 36 mins)Extension Years/Money
Tristan Thompson13.3 pts, 10.4 rbs, 0.5 blks ???
Serge Ibaka, OKC Thunder12.1 pts, 10.0 rbs, 4.8 blksfour, $48 mil
Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls13.6 pts, 9.3 rbs, 2.3 blksfour, $38 mil
Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks12.9 pts, 12.5 rbs, 3.7 blksfour, $44 mil
Jason Thompson, Sacramento Kings12.7 pts, 9.7 rbs, 1.0 blksfive, $30 mil

When looking at numbers alone, Thompson arguably matches up best with Jason Thompson of the Kings who got an average of $6 million per year.

 

Cleveland's Options and Ideal Contract

While the Cavs can offer Thompson an extension this summer, they could also choose to wait things out. According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

If the Cavs and Thompson are unable to come to an agreement this summer, he will play out next season and enter restricted free agency in the summer of 2015. The Cavs will have the right to match any offer he receives or risk losing him for nothing.

While this is a riskier move, it could pay off financially for the Cavs. If Thompson goes another year without any big improvements, his value will drop in restricted free agency.

Cleveland could let this play out and potentially come away a winner. Still, the two sides will likely talk numbers this summer regardless of a deal getting done or not.

A fair contract for both sides? Probably around four years and $30 million, or an average of $7.5 million per season. This puts him well above Jason Thompson's deal, but still below that of Ibaka, Gibson and Sanders who are superior defensive players.

While it may be less than what he wants, getting $30 million over the next four years would let Thompson hit unrestricted free agency in 2019 shortly after he turns 28. He would then have the opportunity to cash in on another big deal while likely hitting the prime of his career.

There will always be a need for a high-character, rebounding big man on every NBA roster. Cleveland should lock its up now if they can agree to a reasonable deal.

 

-GS

 

All stats via basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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