The Cleveland Cavaliers were unable to swing a trade to move shooting guard J.R. Smith in recent months. In turn, the 33-year-old is now expected to find a new home in the NBA sooner than later, but it’s highly unlikely to come via trade. Instead, his future with the Cavaliers is reportedly set to come to an end in the form of the guard being waived.
The news was first reported by Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor, who explained that the Cavaliers will waive Smith before his contract becomes guaranteed for the 2019-20 season. Per Fedor, the only chance things could change is if there’s an unforeseen trade which comes together during the day.
The Cavs have the option to extend the full guarantee date on his contract another two weeks, to Aug. 1, but a source said the team views it as unlikely to trade him at this point in the summer, with many teams already having cleared salary space other ways.
Smith’s remaining $4.3 million in guaranteed money will be stretched over the next three years, as Cleveland.com reported.
With Smith now all but done with the Cavaliers, we’re going to take a look at a few of the best potential landing spots for the soon-to-be free agent. There’s no better place to start than out West, as two teams with new star duos could jump into the mix.
J.R. Smith Buyout: Lakers, Rockets Make Sense as Fits
The infamous photo of LeBron James and Smith after a brutal late-game error is one that will live on forever. But the past is the past, and James and Smith had plenty of success playing together over the years. The big question for the Los Angeles Lakers is what direction they want to go with their roster.
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Adding Smith would provide another scorer and someone capable of knocking down outside shots. With the Lakers’ new duo of James and Anthony Davis, there’s bound to be a plethora of open jump shots available for teammates. The Lakers may or may not choose to bring in a cost-effective option like Smith on a one-year deal, but the move wouldn’t be surprising.
Update: While the Lakers could be in play down the line, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the team is an “unlikely destination” currently.
Beyond the Lakers, the addition of Smith could be a nice way for the Houston Rockets to bolster their second unit scoring. After acquiring Russell Westbrook via trade to pair with James Harden, the team has the NBA’s best backcourt duo, but another scorer off the bench would be a welcomed addition.
J.R. Smith Buyout: Heat & Warriors Worth Monitoring
The Miami Heat could be a team worth keeping a close eye on, especially after they traded for Jimmy Butler this offseason. It’s still believed that they’ll make a serious run at acquiring Chris Paul, who was moved to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Westbrook trade. If that plays out, the Heat would have their point guard and also a player capable of playing shooting guard or small forward.
Even if Smith didn’t start for the Heat, he’d provide a nice spark off the bench for an interesting roster which is loaded with a mixture of young big men and scorers.
Although Smith could have a number of potential suitors, he could choose to head to the Golden State Warriors, assuming there’s mutual interest. If so, the veteran guard would have a chance to see decent minutes off the bench, as Steve Kerr’s squad is going through a bit of a mini-rebuild currently.
While names like Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney and Alfonzo McKinnie are still on the roster, Thompson will likely miss a decent amount of time due to a torn ACL suffered in the NBA Finals. The Warriors did acquire D’Angelo Russell in the Kevin Durant sign-and-trade, but how minutes for the second unit will look is a big question mark.
J.R. Smith Free Agency Dark Horse: New York Knicks
The New York Knicks didn’t make a huge free agency splash by signing a top-tier superstar but added multiple talented pieces. This includes the likes of Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris and Elfrid Payton, among other signings. The Knicks also landed former Duke Blue Devils star RJ Barrett with the No. 3 pick in the draft.
But one question that looms over the Knicks roster is shooting guard and small forward depth. Obviously, Kevin Knox will likely hold down the starting role while Barrett could potentially play any position one through three. But other options for the second unit at the two spots currently include Wayne Ellington, Allonzo Trier, Damyean Dotson and Ignas Brazdeikis.
Whether Smith would provide an upgrade over those players is unknown, specifically when considering the hope that Trier can take another big step forward in his second season. But you could argue that the former Cavaliers guard could be worthy of more playing time than all four names currently, with Trier a top option to push him for minutes.
The Knicks are the dark horse for Smith, as it’s unknown if they’d even have interest in adding him to a group which appears to have a decent upside. Regardless, they should kick the tires and at least toss around the idea of a reunion with the guard.