J.R. Smith, fresh off winning the Sixth Man of the Year award today, figures to be in high demand if he declines his $2.933MM player option for next season. Other teams will be able to give Smith more money on a new contract than the Knicks could, since the team only possesses Early Bird rights on him, but Smith said on ESPN's SportsCenter today that he would like to stay in New York, as Jared Zwerling and Ian Begley note.
"Without a doubt," the 27-year-old swingman said. "I was born in New Jersey, born and raised. I would love to retire a Knick."
This time of year, it's common for free agents to express their desire to remain with their current teams, only to reverse course in the summer. It's noteworthy, though, that Smith insists he doesn't want to go elsewhere since he could make more money if he signs with a team that has ample cap room, unlike many other free agents who have financial incentive to stay put.
The Knicks have commitments that would almost certainly make them a taxpaying team next season, so the best they could do for Smith would be to use his Early Bird rights to give him 104.5% of this season's average salary. The average salary won't be known until the league finalizes its books in July, but it's currently estimated to be $5.276MM. If that figure holds, the most the Knicks could pay Smith next season would be $5,513,420. The contract would be limited to raises of no more than 7.5%, so the Knicks couldn't backload their offer.
Smith could probably command offers of around $8MM or $9MM annually from other teams, though that's just my speculation. Still, Zwerling and Begley point out that Smith has received more endorsement opportunities in New York, and he's certainly played better with the Knicks than in his previous stops with the Pelicans and Nuggets.