Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson is an unsigned restricted free agent. His team really, really wants to re-sign him and thought the process would be easy. But he is represented by Rich Paul, and he's currently in a protracted holdout for what many would consider an unreasonable amount of money.
Sound familiar, Suns fans?
Replace the player name with Eric Bledsoe and you've got a repeat of last summer in the valley. The Suns and Bledsoe eventually agreed to a 5-year contract worth more than the Suns wanted to pay, but less than LeBron Paul wanted. Bledsoe wanted $16 million per year. The Suns offered $12 million per year. They agreed on $14 million.
Thompson's holdout will likely last all summer, and might end up in a nice, long-term contract like Bledsoe got. That would be the best outcome for Thompson. Alternately, he could take the one-year qualifying offer and cash in next summer when the cap jumps.
Sounds fool-proof. Right? Either way, Thompson gets paid.
Except that it doesn't always work.
Another Rich Paul client, Kevin Seraphin, was also a restricted free agent last year. He had Seraphin hold out for more money too. When he couldn't secure a high-dollar long term deal for Seraphin, he had Seraphin take the qualifying offer to become unrestricted a year later and leave the Wizards with nothing. Screw you, Wizards!
Except Seraphin lost that gamble. He didn't play all that great last year on his QO and did not secure a big offer this summer. He ended up taking the "room" exception ($2.8 million) this summer to be the Knicks' 16th big man.
Tristan Thompson is somewhere between Eric Bledsoe and Kevin Seraphin. The question is where.
Eric Bledsoe had a guaranteed starting position waiting for him in Phoenix, and he'd already proven he was a good two-way player and full time starter the year before. The only big question with Bledsoe was health, really. Everything else would work itself out. Even the high end salary would be justified for a starting point guard once the cap jumps 40% in the coming years.
But Thompson isn't a guaranteed starter, which is why he's perilously closer to Seraphin than Rich Paul wants to admit. He's currently, and will likely remain, behind Kevin Love at power forward. Thompson has one really nice skill - offensive rebounding - but he's really limited in nearly every other facet of the game. He can't create his own shot. He is a poor defensive rebounder. He's no rim protector. And despite being 6'8" he's at his best at the center position. Yet, he's a below average overall defender, quick feet on the perimeter notwithstanding.
Add in that Thompson only got his shining moment in the playoffs because Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao were hurt, and Golden State's small ball lineups forced Timofey Mozgov to the bench, and you've got a questionable role for Thompson in 2015-16. What if he pulls a Seraphin and has a forgettable year on his qualifying offer? What if the Cave have good health and Thompson can't get a ton of playing time next year?
Trust me, Cavaliers GM David Griffin has explored trade opportunities by now. Every GM of every team has discussed every player at least once this summer. That's just how it works. The only variant is how serious the discussions are.
In fact, it's likely the Suns have at least had internal discussions - over coffee in the break room maybe - about working on an acceptable offer for Thompson in exchange for disgruntled Markieff Morris. The Suns can absorb Thompson's bloated salary a lot easier than the Cavs, and need a change of scenery for Morris.
But that doesn't make it a good deal for the Suns.
Why would the Suns want to pay Thompson his asking price of $15+ million per year if he wouldn't even be a top-15 power forward in the league? Heck, Thompson might even lose minutes to Mirza Teletovic because Thompson's presence at forward would have both teams choking the paint.
You could slide him to center, like the Cavs did, but why bench Tyson Chandler or Alex Len in favor of Thompson? Both Len and Chandler can defend the pick and roll while rebounding at a high rate, plus add offensive options and defend the rim better than Thompson can.
Is it really worth $15 million a year to add a guy who requires special substitution patterns to maximize his talents? Or should a $15+ million player be able to play in any lineup at any time? I prefer the latter.
If the Suns, somehow, get down to a question of either Thompson or Morris for the 2015-16 to 2018-19 seasons, the Suns should choose...well, that's an awful choice. Hopefully, the Suns have found another trade partner by then.