That leaves J.R. Smith as Cleveland’s – and the NBA’s – top remaining free agent.
While the Cavaliers and J.R. Smith have not yet reached a free agent deal, there is a continued sense from league and Cavalier insiders that a new agreement is going to happen, it’s simply a case of how long and how much?
Smith got married over the weekend and was surrounded by his Cavalier teammates, who posted pictures all over social media.
League sources said that Smith and his camp were not overly concerned about reaching a deal, with a belief that the Cavs have put a multi-year deal in the $10 million per year neighborhood on the table weeks ago and the Smith and his advisors have been looking for a slightly bigger package and that waiting things out, was simply the leverage to try and get a slightly better deal.
LeBron’s deal took the Cavs slightly above the luxury-tax line. Smith would shoot them well past it. Assuming the Cavaliers pay the tax this season – it’s determined by team salary on the final day of the regular season – they would be on the hook for the repeater rate in 2017-18.
So, Smith’s length will be important. Cleveland might hesitate to guarantee much money beyond this season for Smith, who turns 31 next month.
Smith reportedly wants $15 million per year, which would be slated to cost the Cavs more than $43.75 million – Smith’s salary plus $28.75 million in luxury tax. (The “more than” is because they already have a couple players on partially guaranteed deals that put them slightly over the tax line. A $15 million salary for Smith would push the Cavaliers into the fourth tier of tax, where each dollar of salary is hit with a $3.25 penalty.)
Is Smith worth that? The market has largely dried up, so Cleveland would be bidding against itself.
But his agent is LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul. Smith and Paul have waited out the Cavs, even as other teams spend their cap space. I’d guess that’s by design. A strong 3-point shooter and improved defender, Smith would be a valuable part of a championship-contending team with its window wide open. He can leverage that and his LeBron tie more effectively than he could leverage an offer from another team.
Those negotiations, without another team helping to set the market, aren’t easy, though. So, Smith remains unsigned.