Saturday, April 6, 2013
What is the potential value of J.R. Smith?
By Jared Zwerling
A 23.9 points average over his team's 11-game winning streak, including four outings of at least 30 points. And more than one steal per game during that span, as well as two double-digit rebounding nights.
Not only is Knicks sixth man J.R. Smith having a career year, but he's also heating up at the right time of the season.
Now, there's some talk brewing of what Smith could command in the offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
First off, it's important to note his salary situation. Because Smith has Early Bird Rights, the Knicks can pay him up to 175 percent of this season's salary, which is $2.8 million. That means the Knicks could offer him a contract for next season at about $5 million, and the agreement could be up to four years with standard raises.
However, another team with significant cap space can offer Smith a higher amount than $5.5 million, and the Knicks would be powerless to stop him from leaving. And since he's not restricted, meaning the Knicks have no control over his free agency, they won't be able to match any offer sheets to retain him.
The Knicks could have extended his contract at this point in the season, and gone over the cap, only if it was the third anniversary of his signing. What matters is that he signed last summer, and there's no way the Knicks can extend him this year.
With that being said, how much could Smith fetch?
The consensus from two agents, one NBA executive and a veteran scout is that there's still uncertainty over what he could earn because of his overall persona. Both agents called him "a wild card" for his past inconsistent play and party lifestyle. But his playoff performance could change that perspective.
"Other teams will be skittish because he is still a wild card," one agent said. "With the new CBA, I think he will be good for $5 million at the minimum. Maybe more if the Knicks advance."
"[A higher-priced contract] could possibly happen, but some teams may be afraid of him," the scout said. "Not a great history and you have to wonder what happens if he gets a lot of money."
It's worth noting that when Smith first chose the Knicks over the Clippers last February after coming back from China, it was a financial difference between $2.4 million and $1.4 million.
"Smith probably wants to start," the executive said, "but money trumps starting."
That money could come from the Suns or Hawks, two teams that will have dollars to spend this summer and could use an elite starting shooting guard to help them get over the hump.
In favor of the Knicks keeping Smith is his close relationship with Carmelo Anthony and Mike Woodson, who has helped push the 27-year-old into a Sixth Man Award favorite. In addition, Smith loves New York City beyond the court, from being close to home to the nightlife, and he's also seen a recent spike in his sponsorship deals (for example, SK Energy).
While the Knicks are currently the free-agent leaders for Smith's services, a deep playoff run could make things interesting.