June 16th could be the last day of the Cavaliers’ season, but it also represents a key date for Cleveland guard J.R. Smith for another reason — it’s the deadline for Smith to pick up his player option. And according to Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com, Smith will let that deadline pass without exercising his option, putting him on track for free agency in July.
[RELATED: Player option decisions for 2016/17]
Given the key role he has played for the Eastern Conference champs this season, and the relatively modest salary on his 2016/17 option, it’s not too surprising that Smith will turn it down. Had he exercised it, the 30-year-old would only have initially been guaranteed $2.2MM of his $5.375MM salary — the rest would have become guaranteed in September.
Opting out of his contract will allow Smith to explore the market for more sizeable offers, or to re-up with Cleveland at a higher rate. The Cavaliers hold Smith’s Bird rights, so cap space won’t be an issue if the team wants to re-sign him, and for his part, it sounds like the ex-Knick is happy in Cleveland. “This is where I want to be,” Smith told Haynes. “The fans love me; I love them and my teammates.”
In his first full season as a Cavalier, Smith averaged a career-high 6.6 three-point attempts per game and made 40% of them, the second-best mark of his 12-year NBA career. He has improved upon those numbers in the postseason, with a .444 3PT% on seven attempts per game from beyond the arc.