For the first time in his career, J.R. Smith played an integral role with a team by providing leadership and production without any screw-ups. But even beyond having one of his best seasons as a pro, Smith was instrumental in helping the Cleveland Cavaliers comeback from a Game 7 halftime deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals this past June. So helping deliver on a championship to the city of Cleveland would certainly have you in line for a big pay-day, right?
Not so fast.
In fact, while the Cavaliers have offered Smith a deal that doubles his previous contract, the market has dictated a different number for a player of Smith’s level. And because of the extra cash floating around this offseason, suddenly $10-$11 million per year that the Cavs offered J.R. suddenly seems like a low-ball number. This has fueled the standoff between Smith and the Cavs because the $15 million range is what J.R’s camp is asking for, but seeing that the Cavs are way over the cap, every dollar they pay Smith extra they get penalized in luxury tax.
Now with training camp underway, and teams looking to fill out their roster, the Cavs felt like they needed a third point guard which led to the signing of journeyman, Toney Douglas. This naturally didn’t sit well with Smith as he voiced his frustrations…well, sort of.
— JR Smith (@TheRealJRSmith) October 3, 2016
It’s easy to see why Smith would be upset in this situation, but Douglas’ contract is non-guaranteed. It also makes sense to see if a defensive-minded point guard that can hit threes could potentially be a solid addition following the retirement of Mo Williams and departure of Matthew Dellavedova. However, there is still a dusting of hypocrisy from the Cavaliers side as the luxury tax is the major reason this deal hasn’t gotten done, so why are they signing another player who could potentially contribute to that number?
At some point, however, Smith might try to explore his options — assuming there are any left with many teams already using up their cap space for this season. If Smith and the Cavaliers just can’t come to terms, the best thing for both parties might be to look into a sign-and-trade so that Smith could get his money and the Cavs could potentially find a replacement.
There probably aren’t too many teams out there that would make sense in a trade involving Smith, but a few teams that might fit could be the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers or maybe the Utah Jazz.
Jeremy Lin, Jason Terry, Michael Carter-Williams, Devin Harris, J.J. Barea, Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Raymond Felton, Shelvin Mack, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks are a few players that could be thrown around in a potential trade involving Smith.
*Some of these players couldn’t be traded until after December because they signed contacts over the summer.
Overall, the Cavaliers are deep at every position. Losing Smith would hurt though as Iman Shumpert is the only other true two-guard on the roster capable of replacing J.R. Smith. Thus, it would be hard to imagine the Cavaliers not getting this deal done and keeping the continuity of a championship team looking to defend its title.
In other words, no need to panic Cavs fans.