J.R. Smith’s gamble on himself hasn’t worked out as expected.
Smith opted out the final year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, worth $US6.4 million, to hit free agency this summer. However, he has lingered on the market perhaps longer than he, or anyone else, expected.
According to Joe Vardon of Northeast Ohio Media Group, Smith is expected to meet with the Cavaliers this week to talk about a new deal, and is prepared to take less than what he turned down on his player option.
Smith told Vardon that other teams offered what he was looking for — $US7-9 million, reportedly — but that they didn’t offer the winning situation he has in Cleveland. As Vardon notes, the only teams left with cap space to give Smith a raise are the Portland Trail Blazers (who reportedly spoke with Smith before talks fell apart) and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Though the Cavaliers have Smith’s Bird Rights and thus, could offer him a pay raise, Smith has little bargaining power here. He doesn’t have an offer for more money from another team to threaten Cleveland, and the Cavaliers are already rocketing into the luxury tax, so they will be hesitant to give Smith anything more than $US6.4 million due to the tax penalties.
Unfortunately for Smith, he timed his free agency poorly. He may have gotten offers for more money following the regular season, when he became an important shooter and fourth scoring option for the Cavs after being traded from the Knicks. However, he played poorly in the postseason, starting with a two-game suspension for hitting Jae Crowder of the Boston Celtics, and shooting just 31% in the Finals.
His value decreased, and while teams threw around big money this offseason in preparation for the salary cap spike next summer, Smith probably could have opted in, outperformed his last contract, then entered free agency when more teams have more cap space.
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