The Cleveland Cavaliers waived J.R. Smith after failing to find a trade partner for him before the July 15 deadline to guarantee his contract.
As is the case with almost any free agent that’s played with LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers were initially thrown around as a potential destination.
On paper, the move makes some semblance of sense. Smith is a shoot-first player who has shot better than 35% from the three-point line in all but three of his 16 seasons. However, in reality, his inconsistency and poor decision-making as a player and person stop him from being a useful player.
The Cavaliers were trying furiously to find a trade partner for Smith, but it’s likely that no one wanted to take him on without serious draft or player compensation tied to him. This led to him getting officially waived, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
“The Cleveland Cavaliers waived guard JR Smith on Monday before his contract for next season was guaranteed, allowing him to become a free agent once he clears waivers.”
While Smith becoming a free agent in the past two years could have almost guaranteed him a spot on the Lakers roster, it seems the front office is finally taking an intelligent approach to team building. This means that Smith will likely not be used to fill that final roster spot:
“A reunion with former teammate LeBron James does not seem to be on the horizon. Sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Los Angeles Lakers are an unlikely destination for Smith.”
Now, just because the final roster spot won’t be going to Smith, it doesn’t mean that the final spot won’t go to a former James teammate.
General manager Rob Pelinka has been open about the fact that the team will keep the final roster spot open to see what needs they need to fill in the middle of the 2019-20 NBA season. This could suggest they’re playing the waiting game for Andre Igoudala to become available via a buyout or waiving from the Memphis Grizzlies.
However, if that doesn’t happen, the Lakers could turn their attention to long-range sniper and former Cavalier, Kyle Korver. Korver has been on a journey this summer, going from the Utah Jazz to the Grizzlies to the Phoenix Suns and then finally hitting waivers. It’s been said that he’ll be deciding between the Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Milwaukee Bucks.
Whatever the Lakers do, it seems to provide a sense of hope that Smith is nowhere near the team’s radar — something that absolutely wouldn’t have been the case last summer.