JUNE 25TH, 11:53pm: The deadline for Smith to opt in lapsed, so he has officially opted out, GM David Griffin said, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
JUNE 24TH, 3:30pm: Smith is indeed opting out, reports Shams Charania of RealGM, who notes that there’s mutual interest in a return to Cleveland (Twitter link)
JUNE 17TH, 8:59am: J.R. Smith told Chris Broussard of ESPN.com that he’ll probably turn down his player option worth nearly $6.4MM for next season, but Smith said to Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group that he “absolutely” plans to be back with the Cavaliers (Twitter links). The Leon Rose client is no doubt seeking to capitalize on a revitalization that’s taken place since the January trade that took him from the Knicks to Cleveland, though it appears he wants to remain in surroundings in which he’s thrived.
A raise for Smith would further inflate the cost to the Cavs of keeping this year’s roster intact. The team has had internal discussions about lifting the payroll to $100-110MM next season, which, if it ends up on the high end of that range, would entail a tax bill of some $75MM or more, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. Cleveland’s only guaranteed contracts are with Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao, both of whom have extensions kicking in for next season, and Joe Harris. The Cavs also have a $4.95MM team option on Timofey Mozgov and the trade asset of Brendan Haywood‘s non-guaranteed salary of more than $10.5MM. Aside from that, every other player can elect free agency.
LeBron James and Kevin Love are also expected to decline their player options, Windhorst writes, which wouldn’t be a shock as far as James is concerned, but would run counter to what Love told Haynes in January that he planned to do. The Cavs are expected to extend qualifying offers to Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova to retain the right to match competing bids for them in free agency this year, Windhorst adds.
The mercurial Smith seemed like a much better fit this season as a supporting piece in the Cavs starting lineup than in the Sixth Man role he played in New York, one in which he’d grown stale after winning the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2012/13. The 29-year-old, who turns 30 in September, took 7.3 three-pointers per game in the regular season with the Cavs, which would be a career high if extrapolated over an entire season. He made 39.0% of them, better than the 35.6% he made on only 3.8 three-point attempts per game for the Knicks this year, who appeared eager to make the trade out of the fear that Smith would opt in and take up some of their cap flexibility for next season.