As far as I can tell, nobody quite knows what J.R. Smith signed for, but the general guess is in the $5-7m range for 3 years. [3yrs $16.5m -ed.]
And as it further dwindles the list of significant unsigned 2004 draftees to pretty much Ben Gordon (with apologies to Delonte West)...the comparisons have come out.
He's only 22 years old, but I doubt he'd want to agree to a longer deal, especially considering the only thing stopping him from getting Ben Gordon money (ie, $10 million plus a year, which Ben Gordon may or may not even get) is minutes. Smith averaged 23.0 points per 36 minutes last year; Gordon, just 21.0. And considering Smith is three inches taller and just as dangerous in the lane as behind the three-point line, there's no question he has loads more long-term upside.
Ben Gordon will still be sitting at home, waiting for someone to offer him 175% what the Nuggets guard—younger, taller, more explosive, and increasingly reliable—got. If this doesn't hammer home the concept of "market value" to Gordon, really, nothing will.
J.R. Smith is certainly taller than Ben Gordon! Doesn't quite help him be a better defender, draw more fouls, or rebound more effectively than Gordon, but...taller, sure.
And they do have similar numbers. But Smith is no comparison to Ben Gordon, or pretty much anyone. The reason why a 3-season near-MLE deal isn't particularly raising eyebrows is Smith's off-court and on-court combustibility.
As much as I enjoy a good perception-shattering through better analysis (though that's a bit much to ask considering the format of Fanhouse and TSB), the issue with Smith is purely his issues.
I wouldn't personally group Smith's attitude and maturity problems with the easily overvalued 'character' attributes that the Bulls usually fawn over, like the adulation of Nocioni's game-face. And I don't even mind a few slightly dirty off-court incidents on my basketball team. But in terms of what actually effects a player and his team on the court, such as preparation, hard work, coachability...Gordon and Smith are not just divergent, but on complete opposite sides of the spectrum.
It can be said that just looking at cost/benefit, it's worth the risk to pay less for J.R. Smith to hope he puts up similar numbers (getting more minutes to do so, naturally). Smith is 2 years younger, and that certainly matters.
But to me, there's no price that makes Smith a bargain (and though it's increasingly not turning out to be great company, at one time the Bulls agreed, dealing Smith to the Nuggets for two 2nd-round picks). It's like saying it's worth the risk to flush some cash down the toilet because some day you may find it in some sewer-alligator's insides.