His first year in Cleveland without LeBron James didn’t go well for veteran shooting guard J.R. Smith. After being one of the core players who helped the Cleveland Cavaliers win their first NBA title in 2016, Smith found himself receiving lesser playing time early in the 2018-19 NBA season until he was officially removed from their rotation in November.
During that time, most people expected J.R. Smith to be moved to a team where he could compete for the NBA championship, but the Cavaliers let the February NBA trade deadline pass with the 33-year-old shooting guard remaining on their roster. The Cavaliers believe Smith and his partially guaranteed contract for the 2019-20 NBA season could be used as a trade asset in the summer of 2020. It seems like the Cavaliers made the right move, as according to Sam Amico of Amico Hoops, Cleveland is already receiving some trade calls for Smith.
“His contract still counts toward the salary cap, but other than that, J.R. Smith is a member of the Cavaliers in name only. That’s why Cavs general manager Koby Altman is likely overjoyed he has already received some trade calls about Smith, according to league sources. Altman and the Cavs sent Smith home in November, and while the Cavs couldn’t trade Smith in February, interest is a little higher now. Altman said at his season-ending press conference Smith is indeed a trade asset and indicated he’s already received at least one call.”
— SportsDay Mavs (@dmn_mavericks) April 14, 2019
J.R. Smith and his partially guaranteed contract in the 2019-20 NBA season will be valuable to NBA teams who are looking to unload lucrative deals. In the potential trade scenario, the Cavaliers are expected to demand a future draft pick in return. Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman already made the same deal before the February NBA trade deadline when they absorbed the contracts of Brandon Knight and Marquess Chriss from the Houston Rockets in exchange for a 2019 first-round pick.
An opposing general manager, who spoke to Amico, admitted that they have interest in J.R. Smith, but they are yet to enter a formal trade discussion with the Cavaliers. The anonymous GM said that they will wait closer to the 2019 NBA Draft to trade for Smith to see how things will “shake out” from their end.
Though most NBA teams only see J.R. Smith as their way to get out of a bad contract, the veteran shooting guard could still be a reliable contributor off the bench. When given enough playing time, Smith could be a good perimeter defender and floor-spacer. In his 12 years in the NBA, Smith has averaged 12.5 points on 41.9 percent shooting from the field, and 37.3 percent shooting from the three-point range.