In all likelihood, Thompson’s deal will grade out as a poor production-per-dollar investment. The Cavaliers’ championship calculus, however, is far more complex.
Thompson still holds upside; he’s a versatile defender, and an elite hustle player, but that falls well short of $16 million per year, even when factoring in the rising cap. He’ll come off the bench when the Cavaliers are fully healthy and just from a raw production standpoint, he won’t play the kind of minutes that will warrant a near-max deal.
His deal wouldn’t make sense for most teams, but the Cavaliers aren’t most teams. So long as LeBron James is in his prime, Cleveland is on a mandate to win the title. And while Thompson’s total production isn’t worth the price, it’s about accruing marginal value for championship contenders.
As Thompson proved in the playoffs, certain matchups will favor Thompson’s relentless hustle and quick feet on defense. He’s great at switching onto guards in the pick-and-roll, and he’s impossible to keep off the offensive glass. He gives the Cavaliers another dimension that they’ll need against elite teams.
Thompson makes a loaded team like Cleveland better, and that’s the bottom line, even when it burdens the financial bottom line to a staggering degree.
Read more: theScore