12:09 pm Jun. 26, 2012
J.R. Smith, it appears, has opted out of his contract with the Knicks for next season.
But it looks like the ultimate resolution of his situation involves Smith playing with the Knicks for virtually the same amount of money. And the difference will have no impact whatsoever on the team's ability to add other players.
Smith signed with the Knicks midway through last season, and his deal included a player option for $2.5 million. Smith had until Tuesday to exercise it, and it is being reported that he chose free agency instead.
The practical effect of this is that Smith becomes a free agent, and the Knicks can re-sign him for 120 percent of his 2011-12 salary, or just over $2.8 million. The difference is roughly a quarter of a veteran's minimum salary, but the effect on who they can add is precisely zero.
Since he played with the Knicks last year, re-signing Smith doesn't take away from any other salary-cap exceptions the Knicks can use. It just puts another $300,000 in J.R. Smith's pocket. But if another team signs Smith, his contract will count against the cap, and for over-cap teams, take away from whatever exceptions they have. So it is a far easier call for the Knicks to retain Smith than for another team to steal him away.
What the Knicks will get for that money, of course, remains anybody's guess. Smith shot less than 35 percent from three-point range for the Knicks, after hitting 39 percent the season before in Denver. However, he played some of the best defense of his career, and brought his turnover percentage below 10 percent for the first time in his career.
For no impact on the rest of their moves, and with no long-term commitment, the Knicks would be wise to bring back a player with Smith's skill set, even though much of it is replicated by Iman Shumpert, because Shumpert is expected to miss the first two months of the season recovering from knee surgery. And if Smith finds the long-range form he showed in Denver, he'll become a valuable member of the second unit, and even a reasonable option to start at shooting guard.
The Knicks also need to keep him from driving cars, of course, but that should be relatively easy in New York. And Smith will have extra money now, so he can hire a driver.