ESPN New York is reporting that New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith has been named the 2012-13 NBA Sixth Man of the Year and if this writer’s hunch is correct, the man is going to be cashing a huge check in the form of a max contract come the summer.
In his second season with the Knicks, Smith averaged a career best 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, shooting 42 percent from the field and 36 percent from long range. Though streaky throughout the year, he still proved to be one of New York’s biggest x-factors on offense.
Unfortunately, Knicks fans could find themselves disappointed this summer. Smith is set to hit unrestricted free agency, and the fact that he has a career season AND an individual award under his belt now makes him all the more valuable.
Throw in that he has stated his preference to be a starter in the past, and there lies another reason why the Knicks will need to reach high to retain Smith. However, it all comes down to the money.
Look at it this way. Prior to this season, Smith was known as a player who could do two things on the court: shoot threes and dunk with authority. But the player that wowed the fans this year was a horse of a different color.
The Smith that came to play in 2012-13 was great from beyond the arc and above the rim, but he was using parts of his game that fans probably didn’t even know existed. Apart from his signature skills, Smith was driving the lane to make layups and draw fouls, not to mention, creating off the dribble incredibly well. For the first time in his career, the man looked like a complete player.
Now take a look at one-time Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, now of the Houston Rockets. He won the award last season as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but was traded to Houston after failing to come to terms on a new contract. Sure enough, Houston gave him a max deal shortly after the deal was done.
That all being said, the Knicks are in for even more of an uphill battle since Smith is an unrestricted free agent. Teams are surely going to be lining up to make him offers, and the only way that New York could even be able to compete with them is completely restructuring payroll.
For those curious about how that would happen, chances are that GM Glen Grunwald would need to find potential buyers not only for the hefty, uninsured contract of big man Amar’e Stoudemire, but he would also likely need to part with a dynamic youngster and future star in Iman Shumpert. If Shumpert and his incredible defense are dealt solely for the sake of re-signing the streaky Smith, chances are that the New York fans will storm Madison Square Garden and riot.
The fact of the matter is that come the summer, it’s a near certainty that Smith is going to get a max contract. The sad truth is that in all likelihood, it’s not going to be from the Knicks.