As confirmed on Tuesday by the Cleveland Cavaliers in an official press release, J.R. Smith will “no longer be with [the] team” as the Cavs work with the veteran guard’s representatives to find a new home for him in the NBA. According to a new report, the Los Angeles Lakers might be one of the potential destinations for the former Sixth Man of the Year winner, who had recently been open with his demands to be traded.
On Wednesday, ClutchPoints discussed the ramifications of a possible trade that could send Smith to the Lakers, pointing out that the team still has room for improvement in terms of its outside shooting despite its recent emergence as an offensive force. The site posited that Smith could benefit from a reunion with LeBron James, whose leadership helped the 33-year-old guard become a “much better teammate” in Cleveland.
Talking about players the Lakers could give up in order to acquire Smith, ClutchPoints suggested Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has also seen his stats decline in the early stages of the 2018-19 NBA season. Aside from giving both players a much-needed change of scenery, the publication mentioned the similarity of Smith and Caldwell-Pope’s salaries as another reason why the hypothetical trade could be a win-win situation, but also stressed that both teams could face challenges if such a trade would be proposed.
According to ClutchPoints, Smith’s salary of more than $14.7 million means trading him won’t be a simple task for the Cavaliers, even if the fact his current contract only has $3.87 million guaranteed could work to the Lakers’ advantage. On the other hand, it was noted that Caldwell-Pope’s current one-year contract could pose two issues for the Lakers. These include the no-trade clause that allows him to “sign off” on any potential trade before it goes through, as explained by USA Today‘s Lonzo Wire, and the 15 percent bonus he stands to receive if he gets traded to another team. ClutchPoints opined that the latter could also be used as a “big selling pitch” to the 25-year-old former lottery pick.
“Yes, he would have to go to Cleveland and his role would be unclear in a rebuilding situation, but he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in the summer, in a situation where he could waive Cleveland goodbye anyhow.”
As of this writing, J.R. Smith is averaging only 6.7 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 20.2 minutes per game for the Cavaliers, whose 2-13 win-loss record is the worst in the entire NBA. Earlier this month, Sports Illustrated noted that Smith’s inconsistent role with the Cavaliers — one that has often seen him alternate between seeing meaningful action and not playing at all — has been a leading source of his frustration with the team.
Despite scoring in double figures in his last three games, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has similarly played a reduced role for the Lakers, with averages of 7.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 0.5 assists in 19.7 minutes per game as a reserve. Per Basketball-Reference, this marks a sharp drop-off from last season, where he averaged 13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists as the Lakers’ starting shooting guard.