Tristan Thompson Sticker Shock

Dec 26, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt talks with forward Tristan Thompson (13) during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The numbers are certainly eye popping: four years, $52 million for a guy who averages 10.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, plays passable but not elite post defense, and is best served coming off the bench as an energy guy. However, per Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson and his agent Rich Paul turned down that exact offer from the Cleveland front office prior to the start of this season. Within minutes of Woj’s piece hitting the Internet this afternoon, Twitter predictably reacted with equally stunned amazement that the Cavs not only offered that much money in the first place, but that Thompson actually turned it down. However, with the expected increases to the salary cap expected in the coming years due to the new league wide television deal that will pay out $24 billion over the nine years, is $52 million really that outrageous? Let’s consider the following.

Per NBC’s ProBasketballTalk, here are the estimated salary cap figures from this year through the end of the 2019 season:

  • 2014-2015 — $63,065,000
  • 2015-2016 (Projected) —$66,300,000
  • 2016-2017 (Projected) — $87,196,327
  • 2017-2018 (Projected) — $94,013,221
  • 2018-2019 (Projected) — $99,793,454

A hypothetical four year, $52 million deal in the years 2016-2019 means that Thompson’s contract would constitute 14.97% of the total cap over that timeframe ($52 million out of roughly $347 million in total cap dollars). If we apply that same 14.97% to the 2014-15 cap, it gives us $9,442,418 in today’s league. Project that yearly amount over four years, and it comes out to $37,769,671.

Essentially, while the initial sticker shock of a $52 million offer may catch people off-guard, a $52 million contract that extends into the upcoming brave new world of elevated salary caps is the equivalent of signing a four year deal for approximately $38 million in today’s dollars. When put into those terms, the proposed offer becomes much more defensible in terms of an initial offer laid out in October and palatable for the Cavs moving forward.