NBA Rumors: Tristan Thompson, Harrison Barnes Betting on Themselves For More Money Later


NBA players have become more willing to give up money now to make more later. Tristan Thompson and Harrison Barnes are the two latest examples

Tristan Thompson is still a free agent. Yes, that’s right. With just a week left before teams report to training camp, the Cleveland Cavaliers and their star big man are still $14 million apart in long-term, max contract talks.

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Meanwhile, the defending champion Golden State Warriors just offered role player extraordinaire Harrison Barnes the same money (per year) Cleveland wants to pay Thompson.

Like Thompson, when the Cavaliers offered him a four-year, $52 million extension, Barnes declined, betting on himself to prove he’s worth more for a bigger offer next summer.

Thompson bet on himself last year and it worked. He got $3 million more in annual money, $28 million in total extra earnings with the extra year. But still, Thompson thinks he’s worth more, willing to be patient, hoping the Cavs fold first.

"[via ESPN]The Cavs have held firm at an offer of five years and $80 million, with Thompson looking for a max contract of $94 million over the same span, sources said. The talks have been at a virtual standstill since early July, and there isn’t much optimism on either side."

While Thompson did prove to be an important part of this Cleveland team last season – especially as a fill-in for Kevin Love during the postseason – is he worth nearly $19 million a year? That $18.8 million salary would wedge him between Paul Millsap and Blake Griffin. Some questioned Millsap making that much, but he is more deserving of a crazy contract than Thompson.

Millsap is a do-it-all type, bringing veteran leadership along with his skill set that isn’t easily replicable or replaceable. Thompson is a great rebounder and a good rim protector, but should those things alone allow him to earn pretty much the same amount of money that Griffin ($18.9 mil. in 2015-16) makes? No. And this isn’t meant to rag on Thompson. He is a great piece and could be the difference maker in Cleveland winning a title should he leave at some point.

With the cap jump and teams overpaying players all around the league, $80 million over five years for Thompson is fine. But $94 million is too much. Accept the cash and get back to basketball.

For Barnes, I like the move. After Steve Kerr came in, made Barnes a starter and turned him into an integral part of that championship team, I think Barnes – and the rest of us – wants to see what else the sophomore head coach can do to make him some more money.

Barnes is another one of those players that would be lucky to get an offer even close to this just a few years ago. But times have changed.

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With larger wallets, teams aren’t scared to overpay guys to keep them. I’ve never been someone to look at market value and judge contracts off of that. Some players – like Barnes, and maybe even Thompson – are worth more to their current teams than others around the league. Now, as teams have the resources to keep their rosters together no matter how much it costs, the Harrison Barnes’ of the NBA can cash in while staying in a system that benefits them more anyway.

These two situations are completely different. Thompson was in Barnes’ shoes last summer, but now he’s a free agent. If he won’t come down and/or the Cavs don’t come up, he’ll either have to leave Cleveland or sign his $6.7 qualifying offer to become a free agent once again next offseason. And if he does that, well, he’ll just be betting on himself once again.

Barnes is taking a good risk here. Golden State’s current offer is a nice haul, but if he continues to grow under Kerr, Barnes really could inch further and further towards something like a $20 million per year salary. He probably won’t get too close to 20 mil., but the beauty in the risk is that he could.

Don’t be surprised if more players bet on themselves in the coming years, because with the money now being thrown around, the risk is worth it.

Next: The 10 teams most likely to win the 2015-16 NBA Championship