It has been confirmed that J.R. Smith will opt out of his player option for next season, a deal that would have been worth $2.9 million. Smith will make this decision public on June 30, which will officially make him an unrestricted free agent.
So this raises the question: what uniform will J.R. be wearing next season? All signs point to him remaining a member of the New York Knicks.
One day after losing to the Pacers in the playoffs, J.R. had stated that he would like to retire as a member of the Knicks. The team is very likely to use their early bird rights to keep J.R. in New York. To be qualified for early bird rights, a player must play at least two seasons with the same team. Under these rights, a team can re-sign its own free agent for 175 percent of his salary during the previous season, or the NBA‘s average salary, whichever is larger.
This means that New York could sign J.R. for $4.9 million per season. This clause was created to keep players with the same team for a duration of time. Early bird contracts must be for at least two seasons, but no longer than four.
This past season was undoubtably Smith’s best as he racked up 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in his new role as the sixth man. His ability to put up points in a hurry landed him the Sixth Man of the Year award and helped get the Knicks the no. 2 seed in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, his great scoring ability did not carry over into the playoffs as he only made 33 percent of his shots and only 27 percent from downtown. J.R. will surely be looking to land a big contract, but the belief is that he will give the Knicks the hometown discount and remain in New York.