If I were JR Smith's agent, I would be telling him to get the largest contract he could this summer. At the age of 28 and coming off his best season as a professional athlete, he'll never have the opportunity to earn the money he'll be worth on the market this year.
But I'm not Smith's agent, so I'll say no such thing. Because the truth is, while Smith won't earn as much money if he returns to the New York Knicks, as a player it's the best decision he could possibly make.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News has the latest on Smith:
J.R. Smith's list of potential suitors continues to grow but the contracts signed by two free agent shooting guards on Tuesday increases the likelihood of Smith returning to the Knicks.
The Clippers agreed to acquire J.J. Redick in a sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks while Oklahoma City Thunder free agent Kevin Martin verbally agreed to a four-year, $28 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The maximum the Knicks can offer Smith, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, is a four-year contract starting at approximately $5.5 million per season.
Smith has told close friends that if the money is comparable his preference would be to re-sign with the Knicks. Still, some of the teams that contacted Smith's representatives have the ability to offer a deal approaching $30 million. The Pistons, Mavs, Rockets, Bucks and Bobcats have all expressed interest in Smith, who is coming off his best season.
That nice, juicy $30 million figure might be difficult to pass up. But look at the teams that may offer it.
The Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Bobcats aren't going to be a contender anytime soon. The Houston Rockets have a nice team but JR Smith would be playing second fiddle to James Harden. The Dallas Mavericks are intriguing but only if they also sign Dwight Howard.
If a championship is on his mind, sticking with the Knicks makes the most sense. Well, unless the Rockets pull off a sign-and-trade for Josh Smith and sign Howard, or the Mavs land Howard themselves. Then, perhaps playing second fiddle to Harden would be more appealing, as would be signing in Dallas.
But as currently constructed, the Knicks remain the logical decision.
Plus, Smith's role in New York is clearly defined. The Sixth Man of the Year had an excellent season, averaging 18.1 points, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 5.3 rebounds and 33.5 minutes per game. His points, rebounds and minutes were all career highs.
He was the Knicks' second-leading scorer this season behind Carmelo Anthony and seemed to really come into his own playing on this team. With that level of both personal and team success—the Knicks reached the conference semifinals this year—the only reason Smith could possibly have for leaving is money.
Look, I couldn't blame him if he chose the money. It's the last major contract he'll ever receive and any additional financial stability is always a nice thing to have. Any agent would say the same thing.
But from a basketball perspective, it's clear he should stay. He's found a good thing in New York. And that, in itself, is often worth its weight in gold.