J.R. Smith was one of the NBA players who helped LeBron James carry the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for four straight years and win the franchise’s first ever NBA championship. However, when James left in the recent free agency, Smith found himself as the odd man out in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers entered the 2018-19 NBA season with the goal of defending their title as Eastern Conference champions. Unfortunately, without LeBron on their side, the Cavaliers struggled earlier this season and are currently the worst team in the Eastern Conference with a 4-18 record. After realizing that they don’t have the capability to contend for the 2019 NBA title, the Cavaliers decided to make some of their veterans available on the trading block and focus on the development of their young players.
They recently traded Kyle Korver to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Alec Burks and two future second-round picks. Before moving Korver, the Cavaliers already released a statement that they are already parting ways with J.R. Smith. However, though he’s no longer playing for the Cavaliers, Smith remains an official member of their roster.
According to Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report, the Cavaliers have three options to solve J.R. Smith’s situation. They could find a trade partner, negotiate a buyout, or reconcile with the veteran shooting guard. Of all those three options, only trading Smith is the realistic option for the Cavaliers.
With the way they treated him earlier this season, it is highly unlikely that J.R. Smith will consider playing again for the Cavaliers. Meanwhile, in an interview with Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, the 33-year-old shooting guard explained why he won’t be accepting a buyout with the Cavaliers.
“I don’t want my legacy to be remembered like that in Cleveland,” Smith said of a buyout. “I don’t think that’s fair to the people I see every single day walking around the arena. I don’t think that’s fair to the trainers or equipment guys. I just look at it differently than being traded. I don’t like the statement of getting bought out.”
Several NBA teams have already expressed their desire to add J.R. Smith to their roster, including the Houston Rockets. Since losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in the recent free agency, the Rockets have been aggressive on the trade market, searching for a defensive-minded player who can fill the hole in their wing. Unfortunately, despite the Rockets’ interest, it remains a big question mark if they are willing to give up valuable trade assets for a player of Smith’s caliber. The Cavaliers could only get rid of Smith if they will absorb a bad contract or include a future draft pick in the deal.