Hamilton: J.R. Smith “Very Likely” to Test Free Agency

JR SmithNEW YORK — On Tuesday night, in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series between the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, J.R. Smith checked into the game with 8:24 remaining in the first quarter.

Fresh off being minted as the league’s Sixth Man of the Year, Smith received a rousing ovation from the Madison Square Garden faithful.

His first four shots found the bottom of the net, and the final one—a buzzer beating 36-footer that gave the Knicks a 26-20 lead after one quarter—brought down the house.

The Knicks went on to defeat the Celtics, 87-71, and will carry a 2-0 series lead to Boston.

Smith’s first quarter helped propel them, and it was a microcosm of his tenure in New York. Sadly, for Knicks fans, there is a very real possibility that it may end this summer.

Smith is coming off of a career year in which he turned in career highs across the board: 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

This past season, he opened eyes across the league and has been vital in the Knicks’ revival.

Yet this past season, his $2.8 million salary was not only far below his market value, it was less than the $4.05 million the Knicks paid shooter savant Steve Novak.

Smith has a player option for next season, and a source close to Smith tells SheridanHoops.com that it is “very, very likely” that he will opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

If so, the Knicks will be limited in what they may offer him.

Per the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, the Knicks will have an “early Bird” salary exception which they may use to re-sign Smith.

The early Bird exception is available to re-sign a free agent who played each of the previous two seasons with the same team, even if, like Smith, the two seasons were played under different contracts.

An incumbent team (the Knicks in this case) can re-sign an early Bird free agent for the greater of either: (A) 175 percent of his salary under the terms of his immediately expired agreement, or (B) 104.5 percent of whatever the league’s average player salary is for the first year of the new deal.

Does your head hurt yet?

Let’s plug in real numbers to make it all make sense.

Because Smith would be an early Bird free agent if he opts out this summer, under the first calculation, the Knicks can offer him a starting salary of $4.9 million by using the 175 percent rule.

Under the second calculation, they could offer Smith 104.5 percent of whatever is the average player salary for the 2012-13 season, a number we won’t know until July 1, 2013, when the league’s finances for the previous season are fully accounted.

But for all intents and purposes, we can safely assume that the average player salary will end up being around $5.34 million. Under the second calculation, the Knicks could give Smith a starting salary of $5.58 million.

So, that’s it.

The most the Knicks can offer Smith in year one of a new deal would be $5.58 million.

As an early Bird free agent, the Knicks could offer Smith up to four years, with annual raises of up to 7.5 percent of his salary in the first year, or, in this case, $418,000.

Add that all up, and the most the Knicks can offer Smith as a free agent this summer is a four-year deal worth $24.8 million, or an average of $6.2 million per year.


It is not all bad news for Knicks fans, though. And there are two important things to consider here.


  1. says

    Ah well, it does not all go according to 7.62×25 mold plan.
    To do the scraping, use a new or thoroughly disinfected with ethyl or rubbing alcohol paint scraper.
    If you have a heat recovery ventilator HRV, clean the basement floor,
    walls, furniture, carpets, sinks, countertops, and etcetera.

  2. says

    I find this hard to believe. Last night on the ESPN feed they quoted JR Smith saying that he is without a doubt returning to the Knicks and that he wants to play the rest of his career in New York for the team he grew up loving.

  3. Joel Dean says

    Take everything Sheridan reports with a grain of salt, i wish i could see a full track record of this guy, never known him to be right. Still, JR will opt out, and knicks will resign him.

    • jerry25 says

      What could you possibly disagree with that Moke wrote? His numbers are well researched (I’ve heard similar numbers for Early Bird) and he didn’t state any conclusions, but presented all sides clearly.

      I think what wasn’t mentioned by Moke, is the luxury tax situation which eventually will be $3 for every $1 over the tax threshold for repeat offenders like the Knicks. Knicks might not want to commit for 4 years, in which case Phoenix would be ideal. It would be a devastating loss to the fans, once again, and there would be no way to replace JR, as Knicks only have the mini-MLE to offer a new player. Knicks would be in decline after his season, especially if they were to lose JR.

      Knicks may end up Amnestying Amare in July if he isn’t going to be back to himself. Knicks would likely end up over the cap still, but at least they would be eligible for full MLE and bi-annual exception, and could avoid Luxury tax penalties.

      • Freddy says

        I think once Rip Hamilton is let go, the Bulls could make a offer for him. They need a solid scorer at SG and right now the best we have is (Marco Ben and that isn’t much). Also Grizzles would be smart to offer him a solid contract after letting Bayless go. Both of these teams need a solid scorer SG either off the bench or starting.

        • jerry25 says

          Bulls are a luxury tax team and could only offer a full MLE of 5 million, if they Amnesty Boozer.

          Memphis couldn’t offer more than the MLE.

          That is why Moke didn’t mention those teams. JR would stay with Knicks rather than take a small decrease to play for another good team.

      • luvher_501 says

        the knicks cant amnesty amare you are only allowed to do it once and they used it on Billups so they could give tyson chandler more money

      • RichMaldo says

        fyi, knicks CAN’T amnesty STAT or anyone else for that matter since they already used their amnesty provision on Billups.

  4. jerry25 says

    The JR Smith situation is similar to what the Nets will have with Andray Blatche next summer.
    However, Blatche will have to decide this July what to do in advance. Dray’s situation is much different, because he is already guaranteed around 8 million from the Wiz for the next 2 years and the additional money he would get would be reduced via a complicated formula that few people are aware of (ref to NetsDaily). Blatche has stated he doesn’t want to see the Wiz get off the hook for what they owe him, implying he is willing to bypass free agency this summer – and accept the Vet Min or possibly a mini-MLE with an opt-out (if that is even possible with the new CBA?) $25 million over 4 years (beginning July 2014) may be attractive to Blatche, who Is very happy with Nets.

  5. jerry25 says

    Very thorough article. Most Knicks fans are delusional and would immediately assume he will stay. However, JR impresses me as the type of person who will take the most money, especially if its more than $10 million above what the Knicks can offer him. Knicks might be contenders next year too, but not likely good enough to be a top 4 NBA team. Without Smith, Knicks could be about a 4 seed next year.


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