It took time, but eventually the Cleveland Cavaliers and J.R. Smith found a way to get a deal done and signed a two-year contract although surprisingly, not all of it is guaranteed.
With details of the contract revealed by Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer, it is now known that the $10.37 million comes with $5 million in guaranteed money for the first season in it (2015-2016) and $5.3 million on a player option for the 2016-2017 season, but only $2.1 million are guaranteed.
How does it work? Smith has to notify the Cavaliers about a week before the 2016 draft if he is picking up his player option, which immediately guarantees him $2.1 million. The other $3 million is guaranteed on September 7, 2016, but the Cavaliers can cut him before that and pay him just the $2.1 million.
Smith had a very good time with the Cavaliers after he got traded to Cleveland from New York. He averaged 12.7 points with improved defense and shooting percentages, not having a problem finding a smaller role within the Cavs’ system that helped them make the NBA Finals.
But Smith didn’t raise his level of play in the playoffs, and struggled in the finals despite Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving not playing. He averaged just 11.5 points on 31.2% shooting from the field against the Warriors, with his +/- being negative in all but one game.
Smith making life difficult for the Cavaliers this offseason didn’t help him either. He opted out of a player option that would have paid him more than $6.3 million, thinking he can get more from the Cavaliers or elsewhere. But his value is higher in Cleveland than anywhere else, which hurt his process of finding a good offer, eventually having to settle for less money and years (was hoping for a three-year deal). The Cavaliers know that a motivated Smith is a great asset to have, but he has a history of being fickle and inconsistent, hence the unguaranteed part of his contract, which isn’t unique in the NBA landscape, but slightly weird for a player of Smith’s experience and caliber.