Thompson returning to Cavaliers looking more realistic

Sam Amico

Tristan Thompson is the longest-tenured member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and it's never been any secret they want to keep it that way.

But now comes an offseason of decision, as Thompson will be an unrestricted free agent. That means he veteran center can sign with anyone, without the Cavs being due any compensation.

He can also re-sign with the Cavs. 

Of course, free agency is expected to look much differently whenever the offseason arrives. Because of circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic, this offseason is expected to begin around mid-October.

More precisely, multiple reports suggest the free agency period will begin Oct. 18. 

That much we think we know. What we know for certain is that the salary cap won't be what it used to be. The NBA has lost millions and will continue to do so.

That will drive down offers for free agents such as Thompson, widely considered to be among the most valuable free agents in 2020.

There's always a chance he could sign a one-year deal with the Cavs and then try again once the NBA gets back on his feet.

Either way, the Cavs would love to keep Thompson in Cleveland as long as he wants to stay.

They love his relentless work on the boards. They appreciate his leadership. They admire the pride he takes on defense and how he constantly aims to get better, even as a man who has won a championship and has already accomplished plenty.

Thompson, 29, has also embraced his role as one of the team's senior spokesmen, lending a guiding hand for younger teammates such as Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. Thompson also remained a good teammate after the Cavs traded for Andre Drummond in February. The Drummond trade move Thompson from starter to reserve.

Thompson also respects coach J.B. Bickerstaff and the feeling is mutual.

“He’s just so valuable for this team and this organization," Cavs power forward Kevin Love said of Thompson. "I really hope he’s back.”

Granted, the Cavs explored Thompson trades at the deadline in February, but most of that was just listening to other teams. A deal was never close.

And it's true that contending teams such as the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers would love to land a player such as Thompson. A sign-and-trade is one option that could be considered in the offseason.

But not many of the interested opposing teams have the type of players or draft picks the Cavs would seek in return for Thompson.

So given all that, it only makes sense that the preference of general manager Koby Altman and the Cavs would be to keep Thompson right where he is.

Thompson expressed he's more than open to the idea in an exclusive interview with SI.com earlier this season.

"I got drafted here and I won a championship here. I have great memories here," he told SI when asked if he wanted to stay. "I am a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and it is my job to punch the clock and come to work every day for the organization. That is how I approach it. 

He continued, "There are people who get paid for the business side -- (agent) Rich Paul and Koby Altman and others. That business stuff is all for them. For me, it's about just being a player. You know? Don't overstep your boundries. Just play basketball, and let the guys you pay to be businessmen do their jobs."

So what does the future hold?

It's hard to say. Not just about the Cavs and Thompson, but about the salary cap, free agency and the NBA overall.

But one thing is clear and it's that the Cavs want to keep Thompson and Thompson returning for one more run is something that's becoming more realistic by the day.

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