Jason Smith is reportedly making the very wise choice to pick up his $5.4 million player option for the 2018-19 season, according to Chris Miller and Chase Hughes of NBC Washington.
Even last season, when Smith was at his best for Washington, his salary was hard to justify and that only got worse this season. The 32-year-old started the first two games of the season, but afterwards became a non-factor in the team’s rotation. He played a career-low 285 minutes, and over half of those minutes came in the fourth quarter of games, mostly in contests which had already been decided.
Defensively, Smith lacks a position, which has been harder to hide as he ages. He isn’t fast enough to guard fours or smallball fives, and he doesn’t have the size to be effective against traditional bigs. It shouldn’t come as a surprise the Wizards surrendered 111.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, the worst average among players who started the season on the Wizards’ roster.
What’s even more concerning is his offense took a considerable nosedive. A year after shooting a career-best 47.4 percent on threes, he went 4-of-32 (12.5 percent) from deep this season. If he had played more minutes alongside better players, those percentages would no doubt improve, but certainly not to the point where it would justify the time he took away from Mike Scott or Ian Mahinmi.
It’s hard to imagine Smith will play a meaningful role next season, so the Wizards have a few options on what to do with him on the final year of his deal. They could just ride it out and let his deal expire at the end of next season. It wouldn’t help them create spending room under the salary cap, but it could free up room under the luxury tax line to pursue someone with the mid-level exception.
They could also explore trading him for someone making a similar amount annually on a longer deal. The problem with that is the only players the Wizards will be able to fetch are players that teams just don’t want on their payroll long-term, so the quality won’t be great, even if he’s packaged with the Wizards’ other expiring deals (Marcin Gortat and Jodie Meeks, assuming he opts in).
The last option would be waiving and stretching Smith’s salary. Under that framework the Wizards could release him and spread his cap hit out, similar to what they did with Martell Webster. Instead of paying $5.45 million next season, they’d pay a little under $1.82 million for the next three years. It might give the team a little more breathing room this season to bring back Mike Scott or sign another player this summer, but it would cut into their cap space in 2020, when Ian Mahinmi comes off the books and the Wizards might finally have a little money to spend.
Only time will tell how the Wizards go about managing the final year on Smith’s deal, but there’s no question they’ve been operating the assumption Smith would pick up his option for some time now.