Report: Bucks have ‘strong’ interest in J.R. Smith

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J.R. Smith opted out of the final year of his deal with the Knicks, and that was the smart move financially following his Sixth Man of the Year award-winning season.

It doesn’t mean Smith won’t return to New York, but it does mean that other teams may throw a lot more money in his direction in hopes that he’ll be tempted to play elsewhere.

The latest team with a reported interest would likely have to break the bank in order for Smith to strongly consider packing his bags.

From Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York:

The Milwaukee Bucks have “strong” interest in the New York Knicks’ J.R. Smith and also want to make an offer to his teammate Chris Copeland, two league sources confirmed to ESPN.com.

The Bucks will be entering free agency with their starting backcourt, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, testing free agency. But they also have leverage because they are under the cap, unlike the Knicks, and they can outbid for the services of Smith and Copeland.

The most Smith can make in New York is $5.58 million with early Bird rights. He declined his player option of $2.9 million earlier this month, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Smith is fond of playing for the Knicks, and really likes the scene in New York. It would be tough to envision him joining a small market franchise like Milwaukee, unless the dollars and the opportunity to be a leader of the team’s offense appeal to him more than playing for a winning team in the big city has in the past.

It makes sense for the Bucks to go after someone like Smith if they should be unable to keep either Ellis or Jennings in free agency, but it’s also slightly hilarious that they would target a gunner like Smith to potentially pair with either of the two currently on the roster.

Ellis is an unrestricted free agent, while Jennings is restricted, meaning the Bucks have the right to match any offer he may receive from another team in order to retain his services.