With contract talks at an impasse for a month, the agent for restricted free-agent forward Tristan Thompson warned the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday that if his client is forced into accepting a one-year contract, the upcoming season will be his last season with the team.
"If [Thompson] is on the qualifying offer, [this] will be his last year with the Cavs," agent Rich Paul told several media outlets, including ESPN.
The Cavs and Thompson broke off talks in mid-July with Thompson looking for a deal at or near the max contract, roughly $94 million over five years. The Cavs' offer is currently for significantly less, sources have told ESPN.
One of Thompson's options is to accept a one-year qualifying offer for $6.8 million that would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. No final decision on such a choice would likely be made until closer to training camp next month.
Paul also represents LeBron James, who signed a one-year, $23 million deal with the Cavs last month with a player option for the 2016-17 season.
The Cavs have expressed their desire to sign Thompson to a long-term deal. The talks have been professional and have not had any ill will to this point, sources said.
Only two teams currently have enough cap space to make Thompson an offer at or near the max, which would be around $16 million to start. They are the Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers, though neither team is believed to be in talks with Thompson at the moment. The Cavs have the right to match any offer to Thompson.
The versatile Thompson had a standout postseason after Cavs starter Kevin Love went down with a shoulder injury. He is a strong offensive rebounder and a good pick-and-roll defender, one of the cornerstones of a strong defense that helped the Cavs reach the NBA Finals.
It is not unusual for restricted free agents to get involved in protracted talks with teams and for there to be saber-rattling at this stage. Last season, restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe, who is also represented by Paul, had a summer of acrimonious talks with the Phoenix Suns before coming to terms on a long-term contract in September.
Where Thompson's situation is different is that next summer, the salary cap is expected to jump roughly $20 million, and more than 20 teams are expected to have enough cap space to sign a max-level free agent. That makes Thompson's situation, and his consideration of taking a one-year contract, a little more dynamic than free agents who have been in this position in the past.