J.R. Smith is still a free agent, about to take a healthy pay cut

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When J.R. Smith opted out of his $6.4 million contract with Cavaliers for next season, he and his agent thought he would get paid. After all, he had averaged 12.8 points per game in the regular season after being traded to the Cavs, he shot 39 percent from three, and he played quality defense. He played well through most of the playoffs, although getting suspended for the first two games of the Finals (and then having a rough series when he returned, and riding around on a Phunkee Duck) didn’t help his cause. Still, LeBron James was reportedly in his corner, the Cavaliers were going to pay up, right?

Smith is still a free agent on July 19.

The Cavaliers would have been happy if he opted in, but when he chose to become a free agent the Cavaliers decided to look around, too. From Terry Pluto at the Plain Dealer.

When Smith turned down the option for next season, the Cavs weren’t thrilled. At that point, they seriously began looking for another option at shooting guard….

The wise move for Smith would have been to pick up his option. Then go have a good season with LeBron James & Company. Then become a free agent in the “Money Summer” of 2016 when the salary cap will rise at least 30 percent.

Former Nets executive (and summer NBA Twitter sensation) Bobby Marks noted there is even a more fundamental lesson here.

What the Cavaliers want now from Smith is a below-market one-year deal. The reason is they are deep into the luxury tax and every dollar now spent on Smith multiplies because tax — a $4 million contract for Smith adds $14 million to the Cavaliers tax. That’s $18 million next year for J.R. Smith. You can see why the Cavaliers are hesitant (this is also slowing the Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson talks).

Smith is hoping that another team out there will give him leverage, but the market has been pretty dry.

In the end, I expect Smith and the Cavaliers to reach some deal — he played well for them last season, they could use his depth off the bench.

But I bet Smith would like to have his decision over.