After a very good season and a less impressive Finals series, J.R. Smith is declining his player option with the Cleveland Cavaliers and hitting free agency, although both sides would like to work out a long term deal.
Smith would have made $6 million next season, but is probably willing to take less money over more time (three year deal for $12 million or something along those lines?) and securing a few more years of getting reasonably paid before his value drops significantly.
Remember, if Smith hadn’t have been traded to the Cavaliers, who knows where he’d be right now? Probably sulking among partying in New York, opting into his deal while the Knicks keep trying to move him. In the situation that developed for the Knicks, Smith was of no use. Unhappy, unfitting. The trade to the Cavaliers completely turned things around.
Suddenly, focused in a city with less nightlife options and playing next to LeBron James with the focus and promise of making a championship run, Smith turned into a reliable, responsible shooter and not a bad defender on the wing as well.
He averaged 12.7 points per game while shooting 39% from beyond the arc in the regular season after the trade. In the playoffs he did well until the Finals. Despite shouldering more responsibility, something Smith never shied away from, it seemed like he wasn’t too comfortable in a bigger role and his poor shooting throughout the series was a big reason why the Cavaliers struggled keeping up with the Warriors.
But Smith probably knows things are good for him in Cleveland, not to mention that the demand for him around the league isn’t that high. Re-signing and maybe even helping out the Cavaliers with taking a little bit less money does make sense for both sides, although in the NBA, not everything happens according to the most logical possible path.