- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Knicks got their top free-agent target Thursday morning, agreeing to terms with J.R. Smith on a four-year, $24.7 million contract.
Here's what the deal means for Smith and the Knicks:
CONTINUITY: One of GM Glen Grunwald's offseason goals was to keep the roster largely intact after the Knicks' run to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Now that Smith is back in the fold, the Knicks' top five scorers from 2012-13 will be in orange and blue next season. So will veteran point guard Pablo Prigioni, who also agreed to terms with the Knicks on Thursday.
Smith, 27, averaged a career-high 18.1 points per game last season and won the Sixth Man Award. Even though he can be maddeningly hot and cold on offense -- shooting just 42 percent from the field -- he should remain the Knicks' No. 2 option behind Carmelo Anthony, with Andrea Bargnani providing additional scoring support.
And if you're upset the Knicks gave Smith a $24 million contract, remember this: They could not have spent that money on another player because they are over the salary cap. Since New York held Smith's early Bird rights, it could offer him a deal starting at approximately $5.5 million.
STARTER OR SIXTH MAN? Did Smith sign on for another four years of being a reserve? He expressed a strong desire to start at the beginning of the 2012-13 season and was disappointed when Mike Woodson decided to use him off the bench.
The Knicks haven't given any indication that Smith's role will change. Their reserves, led by Smith, averaged 38.5 points per game, fourth best in the NBA. And Iman Shumpert has proved to be valuable in the starting five.
Smith's signing might affect the playing time for first-round pick Tim Hardaway Jr. The rookie's role will also depend, to some degree, on whether the Knicks add another free-agent wing this summer.
MARKET VALUE: Many -- including this writer -- expected Smith to attract a big-dollar offer or two from teams under the salary cap.
It appears that those offers never materialized.
Leon Rose, Smith's agent, told ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling that his client had other offers but he wanted to stay in New York. If those offers were more lucrative than the deal put forth by New York, the process to sign Smith would likely have been a bit more drawn out.
It should be noted, though, that Smith's deal is close to market value for shooting guards who rely heavily on 3-pointers.
J.J. Redick agreed to a four-year, $27 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers via a sign-and-trade Tuesday. Kevin Martin signed a four-year contract in the neighborhood of $30 million with the Minnesota Timberwolves, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Smith averaged more points and rebounds per game than both players, but his reputation for inconsistent play and his subpar postseason (33 percent shooting, one-game suspension for an elbow to Jason Terry) may have caused teams with cap space to shy away from offering him a more lucrative pact.
New York now has only a portion of the mini midlevel exception and veteran's minimum contracts to offer free agents.
IMPACT ON THE CAP: Barring a trade, the Knicks will have Smith on the books through at least the 2015-16 season. According to a league source, Smith's deal contains a player option in the fourth and final year.
This means you can add Smith's salary -- approximately $6.4 million -- to the books in the summer of 2015.
The Knicks could remodel their roster around Anthony (presuming he stays in New York), Shumpert, Hardaway, Raymond Felton (who has a player option for 2015-16) and Smith in the summer of 2015. They should have enough cap space to add one max player that offseason.
Of course, it should be noted that Smith's contract -- with its low annual value -- could be attractive to teams looking for a scorer. The Knicks could look to trade Smith if things don't work out in the first three years of the deal. As John Schuhmann points out at NBA.com, the Knicks couldn't sign a player to the midlevel exception (approximately $5 million) this summer, but if they choose to deal Smith, they can trade for a player making the full midlevel. Per CBA rules, Smith can't be traded until Jan. 15, 2014, Schuhmann notes.
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