Cavs stall on new Smith deal

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"J.R. Smith" (CC BY 2.0) by EDrost88

J.R. Smith won’t attend the Cavaliers’ minicamp in California this week as the contract standoff continues. Smith, now shirted and in demand after playing a pivotal role in the Cavs championship run, remains without a contract and the time is fast ticking away to reach a resolution on money and length of the new deal.

The cost of the title

It seems that the latter is proving to be the sticking point as the Cavs would like to tie the 31-year-old Shooting Guard to a shorter deal than he’s holding out for. 

The owner, Dan Gilbert, would like to keep a title-winning team together and the Cavs are current favourites for the Eastern Conference, with odds of 31/50 with Betway at the time of writing. Gilbert currently appears to be keen on keeping his options open for the seasons ahead and could possibly be considering addressing the $22 million they’re already over the salary cap. Gilbert might also be thinking about theluxury tax system that is applied if the team payroll exceeds a separate threshold higher than the salary cap. The Cavs owner paid a $54 million penalty for straying beyond the $84.7 million tax threshold for the 2015-16 season. That total was by far the highest in the NBA as the team with the second highest tax bill was the Los Angeles Clippers at $19.9 million.

Payday

For Smith, his rationale seems to be that this is his last chance to secure a deal that will guarantee big money and safeguard his future. Smith signed an $18 million three-year deal with New York before being traded to the Cavs in a three-team trade. Now is the time to use his recent great form and the negotiating powers of super agent, Rich Paul, to try and set himself up for a bumper payday. 

Paul has a history with the Cavs and Smith will be hoping that his agent can capture the same kind of deal as his teammate Tristan Thompson. Thompson gained an $82 million five-year deal last year, but negotiations dragged on for more than 12 months and caused the Power Forward to miss training camp and preseason. While Thompson settled for less than the five years and $94 million he was looking for, his deal is larger than many league officials thought he would get heading into summer 2015. 

Paul also represents LeBron James and secured his $100 million three-year deal with the Cavs last year. LeBron gained a salary making him the highest-paid player in the NBA for the first time in his career and the highest-paid player in a single season in league history for the coming 2017-18 campaign.

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"LeBron James" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Keith Allison

Smith is an unrestricted free agent and with the Cavaliers well into the luxury tax, another team could come calling with a large offer, now that he's proved he can help a team to the title. Probably the number one remaining free agent in the league, Smith should have no problem finding a suitor if the Cavs fail to deliver the deal he wants. 

Coming off a season in which he hit 40 percent of the monstrous 510 3-pointers he hoisted. Smith averaged 1.014 points per play last year, putting him just a fraction of a point behind the likes of Jimmy Butler and James Harden. In a season in which the fit of a number of key players was questioned, Smith seems to know exactly what is expected of him and where his place is on this Cavaliers team.

After years of not being rated and taking short deals in the NBA wilderness, Smith has finally found a home where he wins titles and is of considerable value. Now is seems just a question of who blinks first, with the most likely outcome being that Smith winds up with less than yearned for, but enough to keep everyone happy.

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