After struggling earlier in the 2018-19 NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to move some of their veterans to focus on the development of their young players. They sent Kyle Korver to the Utah Jazz and traded George Hill to the Milwaukee Bucks. After Korver and Hill, JR Smith emerged as the likely trade candidate for the Cavaliers.
JR Smith has already been out of the Cavaliers’ rotation, and as of now, Cleveland remains active on the market finding a trade partner for the veteran shooting guard. One of the potential landing spots for Smith is the Houston Rockets. On Twitter, Marc Stein of the New York Times revealed that the Rockets have expressed “exploratory interest” in acquiring Smith from the Cavaliers.
Since losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in the recent free agency, the Rockets have been searching for a defensive-minded player to fill the huge hole in their wing. JR Smith may already be on the downside of his career, but he could still help the Rockets improve their performance on both ends of the floor. NBA insiders from ESPN listed the Smith-to-Rockets trade as one of the 10 big deals they would love to see before the February NBA trade deadline.
In the proposed trade deal, the Rockets will be sending a trade package including Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, and a lottery-protected 2019 first-round pick to the Cavaliers for JR Smith. The deal works on ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine.
Aside from addressing their problem in the wing, Tim Bontemps of ESPN believes that the suggested trade will also help the Rockets in their financial situation.
“Houston might be able to rehabilitate Smith, giving the Rockets another swing man who can shoot and guard a little, but this deal is mostly financially motivated. Not only would the Rockets save about $8.5 million in combined payroll and luxury-tax payments, but if they chose to stretch the $3.7 million guarantee on Smith’s contract for next season next summer, Houston would also potentially give itself a shot to not have to pay any luxury tax next season.”
— virgil a. mendoza (@virgilioamendoz) December 12, 2018
In exchange for JR Smith, the Cavaliers will be receiving former No. 8 overall pick Marquese Chriss, who could join their young core of Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. The 2019 first-round pick will enable the Cavaliers to add another young and promising talent that could potentially help them speed up the rebuilding process.
As of now, it remains unknown what type of assets the Rockets are willing to give up for a player of JR Smith’s caliber. Expect more rumors to circulate before the February NBA trade deadline.