Restricted free agent Tristan Thompson will leave the Cleveland Cavaliers following next season if he does not receive the long-term contract offer he desires, agent Rich Paul told SB Nation. Thompson has the option of signing a one-year qualifying offer for $6.8 million; should he do so, he will sign elsewhere next summer.
"We are a long way from it, but it's clear, yes," Paul said. "If [Thompson] plays on the [qualifying offer], it will be his last year with the Cavs."
Paul stressed that Thompson and the Cavaliers have not agreed to a contract yet. However, this public declaration could help break an impasse that has developed between the two sides since the start of free agency.
Thompson is seeking a five-year max contract worth around $94 million, but the Cavaliers have been unwilling to meet that price because they are worried about paying a large luxury-tax bill this season, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst. Cleveland could theoretically lower that bill by giving Thompson the qualifying offer and then re-signing him for more money next summer, but Paul's statement undercuts that plan. Thompson is set to cash in even more when the cap jumps to $90 million.
It remains to be seen if the Cavaliers budge off their offer given Paul's statement.
More on Thompson
Thompson was a sixth man for much of last season, but emerged in the postseason once Kevin Love suffered a season-ending injury. Thompson averaged 8.5 points and and eight rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game in the regular season, but upped his points (9.6), rebounds (10.8) and blocks (1.2) in the playoffs while pulling down incredible 4.4 offensive rebounds per game. He is also Cleveland's best defensive big man.
Signing the qualifying offer as an exit strategy is necessary because Thompson is a restricted free agent and the Cavaliers can match any offer another team sends. Thompson could not be traded this year without his consent if he does sign the qualifying offer.