J.R. Smith, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, just re-upped with the Knicks for $24.7 million over four years. He is three years younger than Kevin Martin, and yet he is making over a million less per year on a long-term deal.
There are two seemingly simple reasons for this: consistency and reliability.
Whereas Martin is known for his spot-up shooting and high conversion rates, Smith is notorious for his maverick shot selection and haphazard decision-making. You know exactly what you're going to get from Martin on any given night, but the bust potential is considerable for Smith.
But let's flip that thought process on its head.
As Martin ages, his off-the-bounce offense will diminish further and his defender will have no reason to give him any space. He'll give you the same production every night, but that production will come by way of low double-digit scoring with little defensive game.
Smith is the type of player who can win games for you when he's on. He scored at least 20 points on 29 occasions last season, he did so with an explosive and varied offensive attack, and he showed the discipline to apply his athleticism on the defensive end when he was at his best.
Of course, Smith's best isn't an issue here; the eye test is all you need to see how dominant he was in March versus how feckless he became in the postseason.
That's short-term bias at work. Smith seems like the inferior option because the recent thing we have seen him do is fail—and fail much more conspicuously and spectacularly than Martin, who also was off his game in the playoffs.
As the guy with the higher ceiling, Smith is the better long-term signing here. He's perceived as riskier than Martin, but that just makes him a bigger bargain in reality.