According to new murmurs within the NBA, the Boston Celtics are now very close to finalizing a deal with Cleveland Cavaliers free agent J.R. Smith. Apparently, the Celtics have enough cap space to cover Smith's high salary demand.
Despite being a member of the group that helped Cleveland win its first championship title in over five decades, Smith's status with the team is still uncertain at this point. In fact, he is one of the only remaining top free agent in the league, according to CSN. Although LeBron James has not yet signed his contract with the Cavs and is still a free agent himself, he has already expressed his interest to re-join the team.
For Smith though, it has always been expected that the Cleveland organization will offer him a new contract this offseason. However, after his rumored salary demand came out, things between him and the Cavs seem to change.
According to previous reports, Smith is asking to receive $15 million per season from the Cavs, Amico Hoops reported. Although he is definitely a contributor and a valuable asset to the team, he has never earned more than $11 million a year during his 12-year career in the NBA. And, since coach Tyronn Lue just recently inked his contract with the Cavs, it is not yet clear if the team will have enough cap space to retain both James and Smith. Of course, if forced to choose between the two, the Cavs will obviously pick James, the hero of Cleveland.
Since Smith is labeled as a top free agent, he probably will not have a hard time finding good offers from other teams. And, as noted by ESPN's Kevin Pelton, it seems this is exactly what's happening between the shooting guard and the Celtics.
According to the sports news site, if the Boston organization is really keen on getting Smith, it will probably be able to work out a lucrative deal if it decides to renounce its rights to Tyler Zeller.
Zeller, a former member of the Cavs, joined the Celtics in 2014 through a trade involving the Brooklyn Nets. In June of this year, Zeller became a restricted free agent but re-signed with the team a few weeks later.
However, if the Boston franchise renounces its rights to Zeller, it will be able to create enough cap space to get Smith. Specifically, doing so will allow the team to offer around $12 million per season to the free agent.
Although this is still far from his asking price of $15 million, $12 million is probably the closest thing that Smith will get to his desired salary. And, with no other teams stepping up to make a higher offer, it's very likely that Smith will accept the Celtics' terms.