The Los Angeles Lakers may not be among the top two candidates to sign Kyrie Irving in free agency, but the team could reportedly make room for another one of LeBron James’ teammates on the 2016 NBA championship-winning Cleveland Cavaliers — veteran shooting guard J.R. Smith.
In a Twitter post shared on Tuesday by Yahoo Sports, the outlet’s Chris Haynes was featured in a video where he talked about the players the Lakers could pursue in free agency in the aftermath of the trade that will send Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans to Los Angeles. According to Haynes, the Lakers might have to look at adding some “complementary pieces” to James and Davis, particularly role players that could help them improve their outside shooting.
After mentioning Utah Jazz forward Kyle Korver — a former teammate of James’ on the Cavaliers — as a possible option, Haynes suggested that the Lakers could try acquiring J.R. Smith, who played only 11 games for Cleveland in a troubled 2018-19 campaign. The Yahoo Sports writer added that the Cavs are expected to trade Smith in the coming days, and if this happens, he may likely be waived by the team he is dealt to.
“When [Smith] is waived, it is my belief that he will end up with the Lakers,” Haynes predicted.
According to USA Today‘s LeBron Wire, the 33-year-old Smith has one year remaining on his contract with the Cavaliers, which will pay him $15.7 million in the 2019-20 season. As Haynes explained, this contract comes with a clause that will guarantee “most or all” of that $15.7 million unless Smith is traded on or before June 30. This, he stressed, is why the Cavaliers are reportedly attempting to trade the former Sixth Man of the Year winner before the end of the month.
Although Smith averaged just 6.7 points during his abbreviated 2018-19 season with the Cavs, LeBron Wire opined that he could make a good addition to the Lakers if he is signed to a veterans’ minimum contract. The Lakers-centric blog site pointed out that Los Angeles may really need to sign players like him due to their lack of available salary cap space, and that Smith could contribute by “creating some of the spacing on the perimeter that [the Lakers] lacked last season.”
A 15-year veteran who entered the NBA straight out of high school in 2004, J.R. Smith has career averages of 12.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game, and a career three-point shooting percentage of 37.3 percent, per his Basketball-Reference player page. He had his best season in the 2012-13 campaign, where he won Sixth Man of the Year honors by averaging 18.1 points and adding 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game off the bench for the New York Knicks.