J.R. Smith wearing a Boston Celtics uniform? If the Celtics were to have it their way, the free agent shooting guard would be signing on the dotted line as soon as possible. Can the Celtics steal J.R. Smith from the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers? If so, it could swing the balance of Eastern Conference supremacy in the Celtics’ favor.
The fact that J.R. Smith is available on the free agent market is astonishing. No one will confuse Smith as a superstar, but he is a vital contributor who can carry most teams during a stretch. His ability to shoot the basketball is uncanny. Teams can use a player with that skill.
Smith is garnering interest among other NBA teams. According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, the Boston Celtics are the one interested team that has been identified.
The intrigue that the Celtics have in J.R. Smith is sensible.
When looking up and down the Celtics’ roster, there is one glaring omission — outside shooting. A few of the Celtics’ players have some range. For instance, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas are respectable from behind the three-point stripe. Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder can hit an occasional three-pointer; beyond that it is more miss than hit. What J.R. Smith brings to the table that is different from who the Celtics have on their roster is a player who has the potential to make 40 percent of his long-distance shots.
Smith can also create his own shots off the dribble. That is a necessary skill on every team. At times Smith is unguardable. As long as he is focused and the shots are falling early, any team that gets him would receive a player who can truly be an asset.
Celtics’ fans may remember the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs when Smith hit Jae Crowder in the head with an elbow. Smith’s actions started a fracas between the Celtics and Cavaliers. No punches were thrown, but there was a lot of pushing, shoving, and jaw-jacking during the brief brawl.
The NBA would go on to suspend J.R. Smith (courtesy of SB Nation) two games for the elbow, which earned him a flagrant foul level two during the game.
If the Celtics were to somehow add Smith, they will hope that their fans can forgive and forget. J.R. Smith brings the Celtics closer to title contention. It would also weaken the Cavaliers, who will still be considered the favorite to head to the NBA Finals for a third consecutive time.
Snatching Smith away from the Cavaliers would catapult the Celtics to the discussion for the second best team in the conference. The Boston Celtics could even do what only the Chicago Bulls have done in the seven years — be the team to take homecourt advantage from a LeBron James-led club.
As currently constructed, the Celtics can threaten to take the No. 1 seed, but with J.R. Smith aboard those chances would be enhanced.
Unlike most of the other teams who are interested in J.R. Smith, the Celtics have a little cap room to work with. The Celtics have $9 million to offer Smith. They can generate more space with a minor trade, but $9 million should be good enough for the Celtics to offer the shooting guard.
As for the Cavaliers, they want Smith back. The hang up may be about the years, not the money. At this stage a much more mature J.R. Smith would like some security — not financial security, but stability. That alone may rule him out in Boston, but if the Cavaliers shuffle their feet too long another team will swoop him up. That team could be the Boston Celtics.
[Featured Image by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]