David Griffin: J.R. Smith hasn’t been motivated to stay in shape since signing long-term contract
J.R. Smith became a free agent after his first two seasons with the Cavaliers. Then, in 2016, Cleveland signed him to a contract that guaranteed $45.15 million over three years or paid $56.96 million if he was kept for a fourth year.
From there, Smith’s play declined sharply.
Some of that is tolerable to anyone with basic decency. Smith endured his daughter being born premature and spending several months in the hospital.
David Griffin on the Wine and Gold Talk Podcast:
It’s important to remember the greater context of 2016 free agency: The salary cap had just skyrocketed as new national-TV deals kicked in, so many teams had significant cap space. The Cavaliers were capped out, leaving them no mechanism to replace Smith with a comparable outside player. They were also coming off a championship and trying to continue contending – a time it’s important to spend for helpful contributors.
Smith’s deal was logical, even if it now carries negative value. That was predictable as Smith aged into his 30s. The hope was just that he’d provide enough production early in the deal to justify it.
Now, Cleveland must just hope Smith resummons his contract-year competitiveness this season. But even if he does, this will likely be a lesson to other teams about how much to invest in the guard.