Finally healthy, and maybe not-so-coincidentally in a contract year, Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson is playing his best basketball in years. Maybe ever. He’s averaging 14.1 points and 10.7 rebounds a game, shooting an efficient 51.7 percent from the floor, and playing good rim-protecting defense.
Which is why his name keeps coming up in trade buzz — there are a lot of playoff-bound teams that could use a big like Thompson in their rotation. Especially a guy who has a ring in part because he stepped up and played well on the biggest stages in 2016, including the Finals.
Thompson is the piece the Cavs would most want to retain beyond this season. The organization loves him. Sources say they would be interested in making him part of this growing core. Thompson’s a great leader and role model for the young guys, someone who embodies what it means to be a Cavalier. Both Kevin Porter Jr. and Darius Garland have said they have no clue where the team would be in the first month-plus without Thompson and Kevin Love…
He can, no doubt, help a contender. The Cavs could probably get a late first-round pick in return. But is that enough? Answering that in a few months, just as it is now, won’t be easy.
According to sources, there haven’t been any real conversations between Cleveland’s front office and Thompson’s camp about a contract extension — the other option in this debate. The current belief is Thompson’s camp wouldn’t want to commit right now, months from Thompson hitting free agency. You can understand why, especially given how he’s playing.
While there is real value in having quality, culture-setting veterans around a young roster, at the end of the day talent wins in the NBA and the Cavaliers need to acquire a lot more of it. Draft picks are an excellent way to do it. If it gets to the first days of February and some team needing frontcourt depth comes calling, and a decent first-round pick is on the table, that’s tough for the Cavaliers to walk away from. Especially because, as a free agent, Thompson can walk away from Cleveland this summer.
What this does is send a signal to other teams the Cavaliers are not hosting a fire sale. If a team wants value, it’s going to have to give up value.