Off-Season Primer: J.R. Smith

02222013_JR_Smith

J.R. Smith won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. No, I’m not kidding, even though he did have an absolutely horrendous playoff run.

At one point in the season, it appeared that there was almost no chance that J.R. Smith would be back next season, as he was playing himself into a lucrative contract — one that the Knicks couldn’t offer. However, after a playoff run that he’d like to forget, J.R. Smith very well might have played himself back into the Knicks’ price range. There are two ways J.R. Smith comes back: 1. Player option. 2. Early bird rights. I’ll explain.

Last off-season, J.R. Smith signed a one-year $2.8 million deal with the Knicks, but in the contract, included a player option for a second year where he would earn about $2.9 million. Of course, J.R. Smith could pick this option up, and I’d welcome him back in a second, because, no matter how erratic he can be, there’s no denying that his talent is a steal for under $3 million a year.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that J.R. Smith will pick up that player option, because he will likely fetch much more lucrative offers on the open market, and even from the Knicks.

After playing two seasons with the Knicks, New York holds J.R. Smith’s early bird-rights. This means that the Knicks could offer J.R. Smith a contract starting at 175% of his previous salary ($2.8 million) or 104.5% of the previous season’s average salary, whichever is greater. In this case, since last year’s salary was about ~$5 million, Smith’s first year salary would be about $5.25 million, with 7.5% increases year-over-year.

Using Larry Coon’s estimated average salary of $5.276 million for this past year, the Knicks could offer J.R. Smith a four year deal worth ~$22,571,736. Of course, this is likely more appealing to J.R. Smith, and Berman of the NY Post reported this morning that this is the direction the team is headed.

Those are the two methods of the Knicks re-signing J.R. Smith, but it’s worth noting that if J.R. Smith picks up his player option, the Knicks will not be able to orchestrate any sign-and-trades this year.