Report: J.R. Smith’s contract has less guaranteed money over two years than player option would’ve presented over one
Though he will make less than the $6,399,750 he could have gotten by opting in next season, it appeared Smith might have saved face by getting more money overall with his 2016-17 player option. It probably wasn’t a better deal than opting in, but it was was arguably a better deal than opting in. That’s something.
But it’s getting harder and harder for Smith to justify his decision given the results.
While all $6,399,750 of his player-option season would have been guaranteed, just $4.1 million of his new deal – counting both years – will be.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
JR Smith's deal with Cavs is 2 years/10.3M total. But first year just 2M guaranteed, 2nd year player option is 2.1M guaranteed sources said.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) September 2, 2015
Smith has guarantee dates and incentives in deal that make it likely he will get full salary. But it is overall an unusual contract.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) September 2, 2015
The big issue is how difficult the incentives are to reach. With easy benchmarks, this deal might be practically fully guaranteed.
It’s also worth noting the $2.1 million “guaranteed” to Smith for his second season might not actually be guaranteed.
Contracts with a player option dictate what happens to protected compensation – commonly called guaranteed money – for the season following the option if the player is waived before the option is exercised. Smith’s contract could say he doesn’t get any of that money if Cleveland waives him before he opts in. Given the other details we know, I suspect the contract does say that.
If it contains that clause, Smith can’t opt in until after the 2016 NBA Finals. Otherwise, if things start to go south, he could rush to opt in before the Cavaliers waive him. (Though if they make the Finals and want to waive Smith before the 2016-17 season, that could create an interesting race for filing paperwork. Could there be a scenario where they waive Smith during the Finals to ensure he can’t opt in before they waive him?)
Another thing we can deduce: Smith’s salary increases from this season to the following one. The percentage of base salary that is protected in an option year must match the season prior. Because we know Smith’s guaranteed money increases, his salary must also.