J.R. Smith is finally going back to the Cavaliers. Smith has agreed to a four-year, $57 million deal to return to the Cavs as they attempt to defend their NBA championship, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
The fourth year of the deal is not guaranteed, according to ESPN. Smith will be guaranteed $45 million over the first three seasons of the deal.
The re-signing of Smith comes two weeks after LeBron James publicly criticized the organization for failing to get a deal done by the start of training camp. Smith has missed the Cavs' first five preseason games and he'll only have one left before the champs open their season on Oct. 25 against the Knicks.
While James and Kyrie Irving were the stars that led the Cavaliers to a title and Kevin Love rounded out Cleveland's "Big 3," Smith was an integral part of the Cavaliers success. He's coming off one of his best year's in the league and his first NBA title. He averaged 12.4 points and shot 40 percent from behind the arc last season. He also upped his game defensively, turning into a menace for opposing perimeter players.
He was extremely valuable for the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, as they shocked the Golden State Warriors by erasing a 3-1 deficit to bring Cleveland it's first NBA Title. Smith hit big shots early in the second half of Game 7 when the Warriors threatened to pull away, and he did a phenomenal job defending both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson throughout the series -- the Splash Brothers never got going for more than a game.
Smith was essential during the championship run. That's why it was surprising to see the negotiations to re-sign him extend this long, since both parties seemed determined to get a deal done. Smith, represented by Klutch Sports' Rich Paul, opted out of his player option for the 2016-17 season based on the two-year, $10.3 million dollar deal he signed in 2015, but he told Cleveland.com that he planned to be back. "This is where I want to be," Smith said. "The fans love me -- I love them and my teammates."
The front office at all points reportedly intended to bring him back, but at the right prize, which is something the two parties couldn't agree on early in free agency. Smith was reportedly seeking a multi-year deal starting around $15 million while the Cavaliers reportedly put on the table a contract that would have paid him a yearly salary of $10 million. After a stalemate that lasted several weeks, the two sides found common ground and Smith was finally re-signed.
While it's surely comforting to both the player and the team that the deal is close to finalized, there was never a sense that they were going to part ways. The Cavaliers needed Smith and he was reportedly not interested in signing elsewhere. He didn't seem particularly worried about his contract, spending his summer celebrating the title and getting married. It was only a matter of time before he officially returned to the franchise that has gotten the most out of his considerable talent.
Entering his 13th season in the league, Smith has found a home in Cleveland after struggling on middling teams in New York and Denver. With James leading the way, Smith -- who has always been one of the best shooters in the league -- has found his groove, even if he couldn't find a shirt after the Cavaliers won the title.
Now back for another stint with the Cavaliers, Smith will be expected to bring the same defensive intensity and sweet shooting that helped make the Cavaliers NBA Champions.