New Orleans Pelicans Sign Russ Smith

Published: July 16, 2014

Just prior to the press conference to introduce Omer Asik, the New Orleans Pelicans announced another move, the signing of Russ Smith, the second round pick they got in exchanged for the draft right to Pierre Jackson. Both players were drafted by the 76ers.

Press Release

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that the team has signed guard Russ Smith. Per club policy, terms of the contract were not released.

Smith, the 47th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers on June 27, 2014. He recently completed his senior season at the University of Louisville, becoming the only player in program history with at least 1,800 points, 350 assists and 250 steals. Over the course of his career, the 6’0” guard led the Cardinals to two Big East Tournament titles, the American Athletic Conference Tournament title, two NCAA Final Fours and a school-record 35 wins in 2012-13 en route to the NCAA Championship.

In his senior campaign, the unanimous all-AAC first team member averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals on his way to being named a consensus All-American. He guided Louisville to the AAC Championship and garnered AAC Championship Most Outstanding Player honors by averaging 25.7 points, 3.7 assists and 2.7 steals in the tournament.

As a junior, Smith helped Louisville win an NCAA Championship and earned All-Big East First Team accolades with averages of 18.7 points, 2.9 assists and 2.1 steals. He averaged 22.3 points and 2.5 steals per game in the Cardinals’ six NCAA Tournament contests.

Over the course of four seasons, Smith appeared in 133 games and averaged 14.3 points, 2.8 assists and 1.9 steals. He completed his career as the school’s all-time steals leader (256) and finished second in free throws (488).

Here are some of are articles about Smith:


John Reid had some interesting notes on Smith contract details here.

The Pelicans did not release the financial details of the contract or its length, but a league source confirmed that Smith agreed to a two-year guaranteed contract with an option for a third year.

The option is a team option.

There is more at the link, and I encourage you to read the details that John has pulled together into a convenient package, but it’s the contract that interests me most.

Just prior to the Asik trade, the Pelicans had $995,991 in cap space. Once the trade was final, that cap space would disappear. So, in advance of the Asik trade, the New Pelicans worked out a deal with Smith and used this cap space to do it. In addition to the points John makes about second round picks not getting guaranteed money so early, they are also, for a number of reasons, often signed using the minimum salary exception. This exception only allows deals for a maximum of 2 seasons, including option years. (The “rookie” exception is only for first round draft picks being signed to rookie scale contracts). The same 2 season limit applies to deals signed using the Room Mid-Level Exception.

The presence of the third year, then, is an indicator that this deal was signed using some of their last bits of cap space. The basketball people in the organization are very high on Smith, and using this vanishing resource to allow a team option for a third year will help keep costs down in 2016-2017, the season where of the current players under contract only Holiday and Evans have contracts into that season, Davis’ inevitable extension will kick in, the new TV deal kicks in, and the NBA and NBPA both could opt out of the current CBA immediately following its conclusion. Any constant in that chaos could be a help.

Smith would be a restricted free agent following this contract regardless of if his option year is picked up by the team. Here is how the contract breaks down:

  • 2014-2015: $507,336, fully guaranteed
  • 2015-2016: $845,059 fully guaranteed
  • 2016-2017: $980,431, team option, restricted free agent if option not picked up but qualifying offer of $1,180,431 is tendered, fully guaranteed if it is picked up
  • 2017-2018: $1,251,245, likely qualifying offer to make Smith a restricted free agent


  1. Pingback: Russ Smith Officially Signs Guaranteed Deal With New Orleans | Louisville Sports Live - Your source for all University of Louisville sports talk all the time.

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