Three Potential Landing Spots For J.R. Smith (And His Valuable Contract)

One year removed from starting Game 1 of the NBA Finals, J.R. Smith sits on the sidelines, a place he has been since November of 2018. The Cavaliers explored trading him during the season, though they were unable to come to an agreement with another club before the trade deadline. A buyout seemed possible, but Smith’s contract, which was signed in 2016, remained a carrot that the team simply could not throw to the streets.

Smith’s 2019/20 salary of $15.68MM is only guaranteed for $3.87MM, Another team that lacks cap flexibility could potentially use his contract to quickly carve out upwards of $18MM in extra cap space, as our own Luke Adams detailed earlier in the season. To maximize those savings, a team would have to use the stretch provision on Smith, a move that would bring his cap hit to approximately $1.29MM.

The latest Collective Bargaining Agreement changed the calculus for salary matching in trades involving non-guarantees. The new rules took away the ability to swap guaranteed salary for non-guaranteed contracts as a means of creating salary cap space.

Had Smith signed under the new agreement, his contract would only count for $3.87MM (the guaranteed portion) for salary-matching purposes instead of his full salary ($14.72 for the 2018/19 season). While other players are currently under high salary deals with low or no guarantees, Smith’s is the only deal remaining from the former Collective Bargaining Agreement that fits that bill.

The Cavaliers have a trade chip that no other team possesses, though the clock is ticking on the asset; Smith’s entire salary for next season will be fully guaranteed if he’s on the roster come July 1. Let’s examine some teams that make sense as suitors.

Trail Blazers

The Blazers are projected to be a taxpaying team, with roughly $126MM in guaranteed salary on the books. The luxury tax threshold is expected to come in at $132MM and the team will have trouble bringing back Enes Kanter and Rodney Hood—two key members of their playoff run—without skyrocketing over the tax line.

Acquiring Smith would allow Portland to reshuffle its financial portfolio. Evan Turner ($18.6MM next season) is the team’s third-high paid player. Maurice Harkless ($11.5MM), and Meyers Leonard ($11.3MM) are fifth and sixth, respectively. If the Blazers feel Kanter or Hood are higher priorities than any of the three, they can swap one of those deals for Smith’s and give themselves a chance to compete for their guys on the free agent market without the internal dilemma of luxury tax concerns.

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks are expected to be active this offseason, searching the free agent market for additions to the Kristaps PorzingisLuka Doncic core. They’ve been connected to Tobias Harris, Khris Middleton, and Kemba Walker.

Dallas would probably love to get out from Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s contract (approximately $20MM next season), but the fact that his contract still has multiple years left on it, running through the 2020/21 campaign, makes him a hard sell.

Shedding Courtney Lee ($12.7MM) may be easier and would give Dallas more flexibility this offseason. Dallas could attempt to entice Cleveland with a prospect like Justin Jackson or offer up the No. 37 overall pick in this year’s draft in order to acquire Smith. It’s not clear if anything short of a first-round pick will be enough to pry Smith away from the Cavs.

Brooklyn Nets

Whispers that the Nets are contenders to sign two max free agents can’t get too loud until the team clears out enough cap space to accommodate two stars. As our Salary Cap Digest indicates, Brooklyn doesn’t even have the ability to sign one max free agent without renouncing D’Angelo Russell or making additional transactions.

Moving Allen Crabbe, who has one year and $18.5MM left on his deal, would aid their quest for a star summer. The team has three selections among the first 31 picks in the upcoming draft (No. 17, 27, 31) and attaching one of those picks to Crabbe in exchange for Smith would create a clear path to additional cap space.

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42 thoughts on “Three Potential Landing Spots For J.R. Smith (And His Valuable Contract)

  1. knickscavsfan

    Anyone coming from Portland would likely be passed along elsewhere this offseason. Of the three mentioned I would prefer Leonard because I think he has more trade appeal as a big that can stretch the floor with his career 38% 3pt shooting. They can attach their 25th overall pick.

    From the Mavs, they only have a 2nd round pick, 39th overall. That’s not so appealing. Jackson is decent but I wouldn’t want Cedi Osman to lose any PT. He’s under contract for 1 more year and the Cavs need to figure out if Cedi is a long-term piece of the puzzle or not. Jackson is still youngish and has 2 years left so there’s some appeal. I don’t think Dallas can trade their 2020 pick since they traded the 2019 to Atlanta. No way would I want TJ’s contract.

    If Brooklyn offered Crabbe and the #17th then I think that would be the best fit. Cavs would have the 5th, 17th and 26th pick. Cavs could also use a solid SG that can shoot the 3 and while Crabbe had a poor FG% under 40% he shot 38% o 6 attempts per game last year and it’s consistent with his career average of 39% on 4 attempts per game. I also think he would be an asset teams would want at the deadline considering his 3pt shooting ability and the fact that it’s another expiring contract.

    Cavs have several expiring contracts that I think teams would want for trade purposes and I think guys like Thompson, Delavadova, Knight and Clarkson have on-court value for a contender.

    I think this draft is deeper than most think. Not with elite talents but a lot of guys that can have solid 10-15 year careers.

    Dylan Widener and Cameron Johnson are elite shooters. I like the length and potential of Louis King, Moses Brown, etc. And I like the dog in guys like Admiral Schofield and Ignas Brazdeikis who played for Beilein at Michigan.

    Cavs need to move as many of those expiring contracts and bring in as much talent at possible. Maybe Clarkson I would consider holding on to unless we get a really nice offer.

  2. Z-A

    Cavs are currently in the luxury tax. Will probably need to be a good draft pick coming back to them since they’ll only increase their tax payment.

    Ryan Anderson (MIA) for JR makes sense for the Heat. Even swap on money.

    Norman Powell (TOR).

    Ian Mahinmi (WAS)

    • knickscavsfan

      It’s been reported that Gilbert gave Kobe the “ok” to take on salary to net assets (picks and young players under control for multiple years). I would think Washington would want to hold on to their 9th pick and collect more if they can rather than trading them for salary purposes (that’s assuming they don’t have mandates to simply cut salary). They are better off moving Beal since he’s the 2nd highest player.

      I think the Cavs would prefer to take on more salary with Whiteside than Anderson. At least Whiteside has more on-court value and give the Cavs a rim protector they need should they prefer to hold on to him perhaps until the trade deadline. Anderson would be relegated to the bench.

      Toronto doesn’t have a 1st rnd pick and their 2nd is 59th overall which is basically useless. No appeal whatsoever.

      I think Charlott might be a good match too, especially if they decide to try and resign Kemba. Batum (2/$52), Zeller(2/$30), etc come to mind but Jordan would have to cough up more assets to move Batum.

      • hiflew

        It’s also been reported many times that Washington’s owner does not want to rebuild. That doesn’t stop everyone from mocking Beal trades.

        Anderson for JR makes no sense whatsoever because they are the exact same asset. I think Anderson’s deal is only guaranteed for like 25% of its value also.

        • knickscavsfan

          No you’re incorrect. Anderson’s contract is fully guaranteed for $15 mil+. He did have his salary reduced I think from $18 mil. Smith’s salary for 2019-20 is only guaranteed for about $4 mil so if there was a swap, the Heat could save about $11 mil and then stretch that $4 mil difference out over several years.

          • Z-A

            Yes, that’s correct. The contract matches up based on reduced guaranteed money and it’s the best savings the Heat could get in a Cavs deal for 1 year. Another option would be send back Waiters. But less saved money. Other players are too useful to the Heat.

        • Z-A

          I Mocked Mahinmi tho. If they did a Dwight inclusion you send back Delly who is at least someone that would play.

      • Z-A

        Asset doesn’t have to be this year. The problem can be how much money will the other team take back. Looking at the Cavs other contracts they may want to hold onto Nance, Clarkson, so its Knight 15.4, Henson 9.7, and Delly 9.6 none of which are remotely desirable to another team. It says above 18M is the range for a 1 for 1 deal, the most desirable trade. Each deal will include a 1st. Just depends on when and protection.

        • knickscavsfan

          Why wouldn’t an expiring contract of ANY player mentioned not be valuable?

          If a team has a player that matches the salary of Henson’s but it goes BEYOND 2019-20 then a team may salivate with trading for Henson because, while they may not save any money in 2019-20, they can wipe the remaining years of the contract owed off the books.

      • x%sure

        It’s KobY Altman. Miami’s pick is at #13, all that matters, and probably the most Smith could draw… Whiteside would be costly with little benefit. Nance (and Henson) can rim-protect.

  3. ohioplayers

    Is Houston an option? Chris Paul has a bad contract from a team perspective and would be the main obstacle to the Rockets helping Harden during his prime.

    The Cavs would need significant incentives to take on the commitments of $41.3M in 20-21 and his player option of $44.21M for 21-22 since they have so few guaranteed contracts for those seasons

    JR Smith, Delly and Clarkson total $38.73M guaranteed this coming season, which is almost a perfect match to Paul’s $38.51M contract to make it a legal trade.

    Waiving JR would free up about $12M and Clarkson is a good player and would probably fit in D’Antoni’s offense. All three contracts expire after the current season

    • knickscavsfan

      Cavs aren’t ready to compete, Sexton needs time to learn the position, Paul is way past his prime and I’m sure, wouldn’t want to stay in Cleveland at all. No sense in using assets to bring Paul to Cleveland. Would be dreadful for both sides.

    • Ironmonger835

      What the hell does Cleveland need Paul for? So they wanna take a horrible contract and give up Clarkson who was pretty good last season? This makes no sense. Dumbest trade ever. Lol

      • ohioplayers

        I specifically said that the Cavs would need significant incentives to take that bulky contract.

        They wouldn’t be trying to get Paul, but they may be willing to in order to get draft capital and promising young talent.

        Dead weight in Delly and Henson were worth taking on for a year they’re trying to stay out of the top ten draft picks again so Atlanta doesn’t get their 1st rounder, but it wouldn’t affect their level of competitiveness to trade away Clarkson.

        He’s been somewhat good, but an above-average rotation player with an expiring contract isn’t worthwhile on a non-contender. Knight seems to have been a good veteran teammate for Sexton to learn from, so he may be decent to keep around to develop the Cavs’ top young talent

        • knickscavsfan

          Houston has zero to offer in terms of draft assets that would likely be late 1st rounders spread out on alternating years since they can’t trade back to back picks. No way is that worth Paul’s 3/$124 mil. And it might stunt the growth of Sexton. Even with Paul, the Cavs are still not a good team and Paul wouldn’t attract any new FA’s AND would soak up too much cap space. It would make ZERO sense for the Cavs to make that trade. They would be better off letting those contracts expire for nothing OR trade them for 2nd round picks taking back as less salary as possible.

          A win-now team with bad contracts are the only teams that might consider Paul.

      • frankgrimes

        Clarkson is a good numbers on a bad team guy, and that probably all he’ll ever be.

        • knickscavsfan

          Not sure if I agree. He’s probably not good enough to be a starter for a lot of teams but his FG% was excellent last year so he’s turned the corner on being a volume shooter. Time will tell tho. I would move him for the right price.

  4. I almost want to see JR with the Sixers if they can somehow keep Butler. That defense and attitude with Embiid would be fun to watch. Not to mention the post game press conferences.

  5. hoosierhysteria

    JR Smith is a bone head and would be a liability for any team. Leave him in Cleveland…..they deserve each other. He is over the hill….benchwarmer. Disgusting.

    • knickscavsfan

      @hoosierhysteria @ironmonger835

      You both miss the point of a team acquiring Smith. It has nothing to do with what he can do on the court. I’m sure that ANY team that wants Smith is soley for the purpose of creating salary cap space. His cap hold would be for about $15 mil. Only $4 mil would be guaranteed, and even that amount can be stretched out. I think I read where the cap hit could be around $2 mil. So in a trade a team can create about $13 mil in cap room.

      • Luke Adams

        Yep. Technically, the Cavs can take back up to $19.72MM in exchange for Smith, and his cap hit can be reduced to $1.29MM for next season via the stretch provision, so the maximum amount of cap savings a team could create for 2019/20 via a Smith trade would be $18.43MM.

    • knickscavsfan

      Kobe should be fired as GM then. An expiring contract is as much of an asset in a salary cap league, as a draft pick is.

  6. kingcong95

    It’s curious to post this on the anniversary of a very special day for those who don’t play for the Cavs.

  7. Michael Chaney

    I’m excited about what they can possibly get (I think a late first rounder is probably what’ll end up happening), but I was also excited about the Brendan Haywood contract a few years ago and that was basically worthless.

  8. His contract is only valuable (at the level of even a low 1st rounder) if it’s traded for a bad contract that’s around 20 mm/1 year or having multiple years left. Salary dump deals of expiring contracts have almost a fixed cost, dumping 15-20 mm of salary for one year is worth a lottery protected 1st. Obviously, most deals are not so simple, but surprisingly all other factors seem to only affect where you fall in the range, not the range itself, at least not very much.

    JR, upon being released (by the acquiring team prior to July 1) will still have a 3.8 mm cap hit, and (stretched or not) it’s dead money. So, the idea that absorbing the contract of a Blazer player making under 12 mm in a JR deal is going to net the Cavs a 1st doesn’t have a lot of historical support.

    • Michael Chaney

      In the article, it literally says that a team could create upwards of $18 million in cap space by stretching him.

      I don’t see how you can say that clearing $15-20 million is worth a first, then say JR’s contract isn’t worth that.

      • Luke Adams

        Think he’s saying it wouldn’t be worth it for Harkless or Leonard specifically, since the Blazers would save far less than $18MM in that scenario due to Harkless’ and Leonard’s relatively modest salaries (compared to many of the other guys mentioned here, at least).

        • Yes. Though, if all they want is #25 or #27 in the current draft (which I think would carry far less value than a future lottery protected 1st, since it’s fixed and the draft pool is weak), then I may have dismissed a 7-8 mm savings as insufficient too quickly.

    • x%sure

      Acquiring expiring contracts saves a team money NEXT year. Smith’s is the last one that can save a team money THIS year.

      Portland needs that to keep the players that got everyone an extension. They have several players to sign in luxury territory that are proven to be worth more than a #25.

      • Wouldn’t two of those players be Harkless (starter) and Turner (6th man)-? Shedding either (with the 1st) doesn’t give them any cap space to sign any other contributor to the extensions (e.g., Hood). At most, it gives them a larger MLE. This kind of trade would not be about keeping core guys, but about tax relief at he price of jettisoning core guys.

        • x%sure

          Capspace is history for them. I’m referring to minimizing the tax when using bird rights for starters Aminu & Kanter, should-be starter Hood, and Curry & Layman. I think at present signing any of them will put them into the tax, or close. They got by with Layman at the 3 for part of the season but they really need to keep Hood.

          I assume their bird rights are intact– IDK where to look it up. (Turns out the Bucks don’t have them for Lopez, uh-oh.)

  9. hoosierhysteria

    How much is cancer? A smart owner would rather pay luxury tax rather than bring this thug to the team/city

    • x%sure

      You are just not getting it. Some never will… This is the publicity risk that a GM will have to absorb to make the trade.

    • JR will be on the roster for less than 24 hours (maybe a matter of seconds), and he’ll never be at a team facility (by reason of this kind of a deal).

  10. x%sure

    Repost. JR Smith+ JohnHenson FOR
    EvnTurner+ MyrsLeonard+ AnferneSimons+ #25

    –-All backups, but Portland saves money to sign their FAs Hood, Kanter, Layman, Curry, and/or Aminu.
    –For Portland, $32.044MM salary plus #1pick cap hold $2.103MM coming off;
    $13.57MM is added after waiving Smith;
    –-Difference $20.577MM to spend before luxury tax comes from Smith contract & 125% rule.
    –-Turner, Leonard, Simons gone; Henson added.
    –-Can sub Dellavedova for Henson but not Harkless for Leonard in this arrangement due to cutting the 125% rule VERY close.

    Any errors? How valuable is Simons anyway?

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