J.R. Smith has opted out of his contract to become a free agent.
Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith has informed the New York Knicks that he will decline the option in his contract for next season and become a free agent...
...Smith's decision was not a surprise given that he can make much more than the $2.9 million he was scheduled to earn next season.
Smith averaged 18.1 points in 80 regular-season games but his horrendous 29 percent shooting and poor decisions over the final eight postseason games could scare off potential suitors.
ESPN's Ian Begley provided more insight:
Tuesday was the deadline for Smith to inform the Knicks...
...Still, retaining Smith is the Knicks' top offseason priority, according to a league source. They can offer him a contract starting at approximately $5 million per season with standard raises over four years, using the Early Bird exception.
This was originally rumored by Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York who reported that sources indicated these were Smith's intentions during the first week in June.
The New York Knicks mercurial star and NBA Sixth Man of the Year is due a noteworthy raise after perhaps his best season.
Despite struggling with his shooting during the Knicks' loss to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Smith was a valuable asset for the team during the regular season.
He averaged 18.1 points per game and took up much of the scoring slack while Carmelo Anthony was injured.
Opting out does not automatically mean Smith will leave the Knicks. This move simply means New York will have to pay Smith a base of $4.9 million for four years via the Early Bird exception with standard raises annually to keep him, Zwerling explains.
How would you describe a four-year $20 million deal for Smith?
It doesn't seem like an unreasonable deal considering Smith took home the award for top reserve in the league. That said, re-signing Smith will create a bit of a conundrum for the Knicks.
If the team maintains Smith's services as well as Chris Copeland, who was extended a qualifying offer on Tuesday, and Pablo Prigioni, New York would have just 10 players under salary. It would have to fill the remaining spots on the roster with players willing to play for the veteran's minimum salary and the team's lone draft pick (the 24th overall selection).
The 2013-14 Knicks could look a lot like the team that couldn't handle the Pacers last month. However, continued chemistry would allow the team to grow and gel together as they work to get to the Eastern Conference finals in their quest to bring a championship to New York.
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