While the NBA opened a transaction window that closes Tuesday night at 8:59 p.m. PT, the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the few teams that faced a clear need because of a player opting out of the restart in Orlando.
Avery Bradley decided against joining the Lakers when the season resumes, both because of concern for the health of his son and a desire to continue advocating for social justice, among other issues. Word of Bradley sitting out was immediately followed by the Lakers being connected to JR Smith.
Smith had already worked out with the Lakers this season, though L.A. instead opted to sign Dion Waiters after waiving of Troy Daniels. Smith was said to have been working out with Lakers players during the NBA shutdown, and now appears to be getting a formal chance with the team.
According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the Lakers are expected to sign Smith prior to the deadline so he can be included on their roster for the remainder of the season:
The Lakers, league sources say, are expected to finalize a rest-of-the-season contract with J.R. Smith before Tuesday's 11:59 PM ET closure of the NBA's "transaction window"
Rosters for the NBA restart at Walt Disney World must be turned in to the league office Wednesday
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 29, 2020
Smith is playoff-eligible for the Lakers since he was waived from his previous team prior to March 1. He will join L.A. in Orlando as a deep rotation player, and likely won’t see much time unless something drastic happens.
While choosing Smith to replace Bradley on the roster was a simple choice, the more difficult decision will be in the starting lineup and where to go with his minutes altogether.
The player most similar to Bradley on the roster is Alex Caruso, as both are combo guards who are pests on defense and can make noise on the offensive end. It would make the most sense for Caruso to join the starters. However, other options may include Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or even Rajon Rondo.
For the bench rotation, the loss of Bradley could certainly mean more minutes for Waiters, who’s scoring prowess will be needed at times. It could also mean more crunch-time minutes for Danny Green, who was not the Lakers go-to guard in the fourth quarter.
It’s unclear how many minutes per game Smith will receive. Rotations tend shrink in the playoffs to generally about eight or nine players at most. The Lakers would play upwards of 12 people on any given night in the regular season, so cutting that down may be a significant adjustment.
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