Since free agency began on July 1, news on J.R. Smith has been scarce. We heard this past week that Cavaliers GM David Griffin was confident about bringing back the veteran shooting guard, and based on the fact that the Cavs hold Smith’s Bird rights and he doesn’t appear to have drawn much outside interest, that seemed logical.
On Sunday, however, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweeted that he’s hearing Smith is seeking a “huge deal” from the Cavs — potentially something in the $15MM-per-year range. By comparison, Smith would have earned $5.375MM if he had opted into the final year of his previous contract rather than declining that player option.
Although a $15MM price tag for Smith may seem outlandish on the surface, Evan Turner recently exceeded $17MM annually on his new deal, while Allen Crabbe received $18MM+ per year. From Smith’s perspective, a deal in the range of Pau Gasol‘s two-year, $30MM pact may seem entirely reasonable, given the salary cap spike and the free agent prices around the NBA, particularly for some less accomplished two guards.
[RELATED: Shooting guard free agent contracts via our 2016 Free Agent Tracker]
Smith also has a little leverage over the Cavaliers because the team isn’t in a great position to replace him if he leaves for another club. Most of the highest-coveted free agents are off the market at this point, and Cleveland isn’t in position to make a big offer to a player like Dion Waiters, since the team doesn’t have any cap room available.
As we saw a year ago with Tristan Thompson – and even this year with LeBron James – the Cavaliers don’t typically rush this sort of negotiation. As long as teams like the Nets and Sixers still have the cap room necessary to offer significant money, Smith could use those clubs as leverage as he seeks a deal with the Cavs. Cleveland, meanwhile, will attempt to get Smith back at a more reasonable price to avoid another big luxury-tax bill. According to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.com, there has been “zero animosity” between the two sides so far, but that doesn’t mean there will be a quick resolution.