Atop most current 2015 free agent lists sit two names, Tristan Thompson and Norris Cole. Coincidentally, they are both represented by Rich Paul and his company, Klutch Sports Group. Paul is most famous for being LeBron James' agent and his rags to riches rise within the sports agent world.
Although both players and their teammates want to see each of them return to their respected clubs, Paul has not allowed either of them to sign their qualifying offers. The reason for this is simple: they both are set to be reserves behind two very good players in Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday. However, before their minutes and production likely drop, the freshest memories in all minds is how the duo finished the 2014-15 season. Paul absolutely wants to capitalize on this.
After Kelly Olynyk manhandled Love's shoulder in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, Thompson was shortly thereafter thrust into a starting role and shined, averaging 10.6 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in his 15 games. The advanced statistics were even larger fans of his performance as evidenced by his offensive/defensive ratings, true shooting percentage and win shares.
Likewise, the Pelicans found Norris Cole indispensable. After Holiday went down again due to a troublesome right tibia injury, the team had a revolving door at backup point guard. No one stepped in and seized the job, and with a mandate hanging over the front office of making the playoffs or else, Dell Demps never quit searching for a suitable replacement until Cole arrived in New Orleans via a trade deadline deal.
Not only did Cole solidify the position with impactful play on both ends, he brought some much needed playoff experience to a team devoid of veterans. Along with Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter, many proclaimed the Pelicans postseason berth wouldn't have occurred without their in-season acquisitions. And, with multiple questions surrounding Holiday's health, many feel the Pelicans simply must bring Cole back to serve as a nice insurance policy.
Where the situations of Thompson and Cole begin to differ is the amount of external pressure the Cavaliers face versus the Pelicans. In Thompson's corner sits one of the best basketball players in the world who has made it known TT's demands need to be met. After how James' relationship was fractured in Cleveland upon The Decision, Dan Gilbert knows he has to appease the hometown hero regardless of the cost. That means there is a real chance the Cavaliers will sign Thompson to something close to a max deal, despite the fact the team could possibly end up having to pay a luxury tax bill of around 46 million dollars.
Anthony Davis has stated he would like to see Cole return, but his opinion doesn't remotely approach the level of James. There is good reason for this. AD has no reason to get involved and he certainly doesn't feel the need to step on any toes.
On the other hand, James is aware that one of his best friends, Rich Paul, could collect 4% on a new contract that is going to come in well above market value. Just this past January, many were shocked a 52 million extension was turned down when most around the NBA felt Thompson would have difficultly commanding something in the range of 10-12 million per year.
You know, it wouldn't be out of the blue to also learn James probably wouldn't mind dropping one last shot in the direction of Gilbert and see him fork over a ridiculous sum of money to pay for the expected tax penalty.
Meanwhile, Cole's agent doesn't have much to stand on. Likely, his hope was that there would be some sort of setback by Holiday's leg sometime this summer. This, in combination with the fact that Cole just posted the highest PER, three-point percentage and win shares per 48 minutes while wearing a New Orleans jersey.
However, no negative Holiday news has transpired as recent observations indicated Holiday will be 100% at the start of next season. Moreover, Cole's 274 games played with the Heat undoubtedly weigh more heavily than just the 28 with the Pelicans.
Almost a year ago, the Miami Heat failed to extend Cole; thus, the Pelicans were able to present him a qualifying offer just north of 3 million dollars before the July 1st deadline in order to restrict his free agency. This sum seems like a good deal considering Cole made over 2 million for the first time in his career despite his advanced statistics never looking favorably upon him, painting him as a well below average NBA player.
Thanks to the support of LeBron James, Rich Paul might very well end up forcing the Cavaliers to pony up for Tristan Thompson now. To get paid starter type of money despite remaining in a reserve role. This, when the team has already doled out $110 million on Love for the next five years.
Potent threats like claiming Thompson will leave the Cavaliers after next season are not made unless an agent has a ton of leverage. Paul has it: if a lucrative contract is not offered, there could be a real chance James' homecoming will be a short one, and in turn Dan Gilbert would become public enemy #1 on the streets in Cleveland, not LeBron this time around.
Fortunately for Pelicans management, Norris Cole's situation is nothing similar. After becoming a starter in Miami and then filling a vital role in New Orleans with a few numbers to back it up, Paul and the rest of Klutch Sports Group figured they'd be in a better bargaining position. The problem is that no other NBA teams have any legitimate interest and David laid this out well last Sunday.
Those Philly or New York rumors? Just half-hearted attempts by Paul's group to create some leverage; too bad Dell Demps won't be persuaded to bite.
So, it's high time the charade ends and Cole is allowed to sign the qualifying offer. There exists no better case scenario, and with each passing day that brings us closer to training camp, the situation becomes a bigger nuisance for all involved parties.