If the Knicks want to retain J.R. Smith for another year, they’re probably going to need to pay.
Come summer, Smith is expected to opt out of his contract with New York and become an unrestricted free agent. For the 2012-13 season, Smith brought in $2,806,452. If he doesn’t opt out of his contract for next season, the shooting guard is set to make $2,932,742.
Frankly, the Knicks got Smith for a steal last season. The shooting guard was a force during the regular season, averaging 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals per 33.5 minutes of game play. He even grabbed the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award for 2012-13.
Johnson puts up similar numbers to those of Smith. For the 2012-13 regular season, Johnson averaged 16.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 0.7 steals in 36.7 minutes of game play. The 31-year-old guard will make $21,466,718 next season with the Nets.
Another shooting guard comparable to J.R. Smith is DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors, who averaged 18.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.9 steals in 36.7 minutes this past season. Though DeRozan only made $3,344,250 for 2012-13, he is set to cash in big next season. The Raptors owe him $9,500,000 for 2013-14.
Though DeRozan is much younger than Smith—he’s 23 and Smith is 27—and therefore has experienced less wear-and-tear on the court, DeRozan’s salary jump could be indicative of the need for the Knicks to put up significantly bigger numbers in order to retain their shooting guard.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ shooting guard J.J. Redick will find himself in a similar situation to J.R. Smith next season. He was traded from Orlando to the Bucks midseason and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The 28-year-old Redick made $6,190,000 for 2012-13 with the Bucks and averaged 14.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 0.5 steals per 30.5 minutes of game play. Even though Smith is slightly more desirable than Redick in terms of statistics, he still made much less than the Bucks’ shooting guard last season. This means Smith will likely be looking for considerably more money from the Knicks, or any other team willing to pay.
In a perfect world with no salary cap, the Knicks should offer J.R. Smith $7 million for the 2013-14 season to stay in New York. However, they only have $5 million to offer the shooting guard. This means that the Knicks should offer J.R. Smith $5 million to for 2013-14, and this will be there “walk away price” too because it’s the most they can afford.
Though New York may run into some teams that will outbid them, Smith didn’t play too well during the postseason, which may prevent other teams from offering more than $5 million.
He averaged 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per 31.9 minutes of game play; these numbers are significantly lower than his regular season statistics. The New York Post reported such mediocre play was probably a result of fluid buildup in Smith’s left knee.
If another team really tries to outbid New York and makes an offer exceeding $5 million, the Knicks will have to walk away from their shooting guard and use their money to find someone else to fill the position. Nevertheless, J.R. Smith has proven himself quite an asset to New York and the Knicks should definitely try to keep him by offering him more than he made last season.