The more significant point now though is how will this affect Tristan Thompson's future with the Cavaliers?
For one of those teams (the Jazz) this move came back to bite them.... Hard. A player that they could have extended for approximately $52M for 4 years ended up getting a max contract offer from the Charlotte Hornets at $63M for 4 years, all over a $1M discrepancy between what the Jazz wanted to pay (source). In the end, the move cost them almost $3M a year and $10M over the course of the contract.
On the other hand, a player like Greg Monroe didn't receive offers from other teams and a player like Eric Bledsoe struggled to drum up interest. The market was likely deflated due to a late start in the market (caused by the LeBron, Bosh, Wade and Melo frenzy), or a bevvy of available players at both positions that could be afforded on tighter budgets (Gasol and Boozer were both cheaper). In the end, both returned to their respective teams for much less than they expected (Monroe signed a one year deal at $5.5M and Bledsoe signed a 5 year, $70M dollar deal - about $20M less than the max contract that Kyrie just signed).
When it comes to signing your draft picks after their rookie contracts, the outcome is often a gamble, and completely dependent on what the rest of the market will pay for the players. This is what makes Thompson's situation that much more tricky.
By all means, Thompson has under-produced for where he was picked in the draft, though he's still managed to be a productive player and energy guy for the Cavs on a night to night basis. Throw in the great health that he's maintained in his career thus far (has not missed a game in the three years he's played), and you have a player enigma. Any contract you offer is going to be banking on Thompson's upside and potential.
By most measures, Andy and Tristan fill the same niche on the team. Rebounders. Energy guys. Pick-and-roll partners. Good for around 10 points off of put-backs or dunks a game. And while Andy has developed a startlingly good jumper, during his first few years on the Cavs, he was cracking backboards with some nasty bricks.
When you consider the productivity that Varejao has had, and choose to overlook some of the health concerns that arose later in his career, the $45M/6yr contract that Andy signed back in '09 looks pretty darn good. There were some major concerns at the time of signing the contract though that the Cavs were drastically overpaying a good defender with no offensive game. Sound a little familiar to the situation we're in now? (Editor's note: Thompson has a better offensive game than Varejao did at this same point. The defensive comparison isn't particularly close. Varejao was and is better than Thompson. In some ways, they're like fun house mirrors of each other.)
What I wanted to look at in this comparison though was a combination of factors. I wanted to see how much improvement that each player made in their first three years in the league, which hopefully will continue to extrapolate out, as well as what their contracts look like compared to the salary cap when their contracts were signed. It should be noted that Andy actually signed his big extension after he was in the league 5 years, so there's a bit more guessing for Thompson in comparison.
Andy on the other hand was a mixed bag. He improved in certain areas and diminished in others. This probably related to Andy's development as a specialty player, grabbing rebounds and passing the ball, as opposed to scoring and blocking shots. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it shows that Andy has always been a limited player.
When you compare the two players, Thompson has shown much more growth and positive trending than Varejao did early on, and thus should be a little easier to give a larger contract. The big question though is how big of a contract?
Back in 2009, Anderson Varejao got his big contract: $45M/6 years, which was monstrous for a pesky big man with a limited offensive game. The contract broke down as follows:
- Year 1: $6.3M
- Year 2: $7.0M
- Year 3: $7.7M
- Year 4: $8.4M
- Year 5: $6.0M
- Year 6: $9.7M
- Average: $7.5M
While $11M is still a bit high by comparison, it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable. Factor in that Thompson has much more upside and growing to do as a player, as well as the spotless injury history, locking him in at that amount might not be a bad move. You can still gamble that no one else will offer him that large of a contract, but if you look at the Rocket's situation with Parsons or the Jazz with Hayward, negotiations can get dicey real quick.