The 27-year-old shooting guard averaged 18.1 points per game this season, finishing second on the Knicks in scoring behind only Carmelo Anthony. His play earned him the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award and will earn him a raise as well.
Newsday’s Al Iannazzone reported that Smith will opt out of his $2.9 million contract and test free agency. Due to a lack of salary cap room, the most New York can offer him this season is an Early Bird Exception which starts at $5.58 per year.
ESPN’s Ian Begley reported that, according to sources, re-signing Smith is the Knicks' No. 1 priority this offseason. Here are the teams that they must battle with to keep the explosive scorer, according to ESPN’s Jared Zwerling and Chris Broussard.
3. Phoenix Suns
Projected Salary Cap Space: $8.5 million (according to ShamSports.com)
Phoenix picked Alex Len with the fifth overall pick, which did nothing to solve its issues on the wing. Not a single Suns shooting guard or small forward scored at least 11.0 points per game this past season. They don’t have as much cap room as the rest of the teams on this list, but they’re also the most desperate.
Projected Salary Cap Space: $20.2 million (according to ShamSports.com)
Depending on how it handles choosing whether or not to re-sign Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings and J.J. Redick, Milwaukee may be able to easily outbid the Knicks for Smith’s services. It selected Giannis Adetokunbo with the No. 15 pick in the draft, but the 18-year-old European won’t be able to compete in the NBA for years. If the Bucks throw together a backcourt of Ellis, Redick and Smith, they’ll boast quite a high-scoring attack next season.
Projected Salary Cap Space: $28.8 million (according to ShamSports.com)
Detroit has plenty of room to make moves in free agency with none of its unrestricted free agents—Will Bynum, Jose Calderon, Corey Maggette or Jason Maxiell—being players it must re-sign. The Pistons selected Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with their eighth overall pick in the draft. That should signal Brandon Knight’s permanent move to point guard, creating a need for more long-distance scoring on the wing.
If Detroit really wants Smith, it has the money to win him over.
David Daniels is a breaking news writer at Bleacher Report and news editor at Wade-O Radio.