Column: After late contract agreement, Thompson must prove to Cavaliers why they paid him

Steve Helwick

The holdout lasted a while, and there seemed to be no end in sight.

Cleveland Cavaliers free agent power forward and former Longhorn Tristan Thompson did not sign the qualifying offer with the team in October, and the parties seemed to be separating. The Cavaliers removed all jerseys and references of him in their stadium. Thompson did not participate in training camp or the NBA preseason, awaiting a larger contract. On Oct. 21, Thompson finally agreed to a five-year contract worth $82 million with the Cavaliers.

This contract makes Thompson the second-highest paid healthy NBA player who has not started a game this season, behind Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter. Thompson — who has been on the Cavaliers’ roster since his rookie year in 2011 — is a valuable role player on the team. In each of the past three seasons, he ranked in the top six in the NBA in offensive rebounding. Defensively, the Cavaliers hold teams to 88.3 points per 100 possessions when Thompson is on the court.

His scoring output of 6.8 points per game through his first six games this season is not typical of a player making more than $14 million annually. But for a contending team with title aspirations, Thompson is a perfect counterpart on a team that is filled with All-Stars. Last season, the Cavaliers’ offensive stars LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love averaged 63.4 (61.4-percent) of the Cavaliers 103.1 points per game last season.

Thompson ranked eighth in scoring on the 2014-15 Cavaliers, but his rebounding and defensive presence were enough to earn a massive contract. To earn it, he must continue to make his presence felt around the rim — collecting rebounds and altering shots.