Former Cavs guard J.R. Smith to Lakers is win-win for both sides

J.R. Smith and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate in-game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
J.R. Smith and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate in-game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Former Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith landing with the Los Angeles Lakers was a win-win for both parties.

Cleveland Cavaliers fans seem to have mixed emotions about J.R. Smith.

Smith seemingly made an awful mistake back in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals versus the Golden State Warriors after securing an offensive rebound and nearly dribbling the clock out and not either getting a shot up, or passing to LeBron James earlier.

George Hill, who missed that free throw unfortunately, ended up throwing up a shot that was an errant one and partially tipped by Draymond Green, and it appeared Smith while didn’t say it post-game, seemed to believe the Cavs until the last split second, were up.

Cleveland, who could’ve made that 2018 Finals more of a series after a herculean 51-point, eight-rebound and eight-assist effort from James, would eventually lose their momentum. Game 3 was close but the end result was a Golden State sweep, and that wasn’t all that surprising with the Dubs at the peak of their powers.

Additionally, Smith, after the Cavaliers in the early part of 2018-19 shifted their focus to rebuilding, did not want to take part in that. Smith and the Cavs mutually parted ways, and both agreed that during the vast majority of last season, he would not be an active member of the team though he was technically still on the club.

Smith would be waived last offseason, and has not appeared yet in 2019-20. In the league’s season resumption in Orlando, though, Smith will get his chance once again with the Los Angeles Lakers.

That is truly a win-win for both the former Cleveland Cavaliers guard in Smith and the Lakers.

With the NBA’s transaction window set to close on Tuesday at 11:59 PM Eastern, the Lakers and Smith agreed that he’d join them, in what will be officially by that deadline and for teams to have Orlando rosters official on Wednesday.

Smith and the Lakers were said to be finalizing a deal for the prior free agent to join the club, per Marc Stein of the New York Times and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Smith is seemingly set to take the place of Avery Bradley on L.A., who opted out of the league’s resumption last week, as Wojnarowski alluded to and will have a “rest-of-the-season contract,” per Stein.

What of course jumps out here in regards to Smith on the Lakers is him being back with his buddy LeBron James. As Cavs fans are well aware of, those two are very close, and they established a great rapport on the floor in their time in James’ second stint with the Cavs.

In his Cavaliers tenure, which was almost all with James, Smith hit 38.1 percent of his three-point attempts, and was a crucial piece in four postseason runs alongside James to the NBA Finals.

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Cavs fans will never forget how Smith kept the Cavs in striking distance in the third quarter of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

That along with Kyrie Irving’s bucket-getting in turn prevented the Warriors from seemingly pulling away, for example, which was significant in the Cavs eventually winning their first title.

Smith hit plenty of big shots in big games for the Cleveland Cavaliers. His ability to make even his share of bail-out shots made him such a key piece as a floor spacer for James, and if his number is called in some instances by the Lakers in the restart, he could catch fire, feasibly off the bench.

Furthermore, while it was years ago, Smith is still a highly capable shooter, and he set the Cavs single-season record for three-pointers made in 2015-16 with 204.

Granted, it’s hard to say just how much time Smith will or could get, as the defensive end is a question mark I’d imagine regarding the 34-year-old. Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and pre-novel coronavirus-induced hiatus add Dion Waiters seem to be in the mix.

That said, as Bleacher Report’s Mo Dakhil hit on, Smith has plenty of postseason experience with LeBron James. That could be something the Lakers factor in come crucial stretches in the restart.

L.A. went into the season’s hiatus as the first seed in the Western Conference, though, so it’s hard to say if Smith can be realistically getting a chunk of meaningful minutes.

Even so, I’d expect Smith to be completely locked-in, and be ready to roll if he does have his number called by the Lakers. I understand Smith has been out of basketball for a while, but in key games, he’s answered, and LeBron consistently gets the best out of Smith in big games.

Regardless, if Smith doesn’t end up being a regular contributor, with him alongside James once again, I’d expect to fit in very well with the likes of Green, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma and L.A. as a player who has been in a bunch of postseason games.

On a veteran squad and with his buddy in LeBron James once again like back in his Cleveland Cavaliers glory days, this would seem to be a win-win for both Smith and L.A.

Smith could potentially give the Lakers a knockdown shooter off-the-catch, in some respects. If he’s not a factor, then it was worth a shot and they still have other more than capable options.

For Smith, maybe he could establish himself as a rotational contributor for the Lakers again next season after a quality audition, if you will. If he doesn’t play much/well, then at least he gave it a shot.

I know Smith had some mishaps on the Cavs, and some mental errors in games, but he hit plenty of big shots in his time with them, and was dialed-in/highly capable defensively in a lot of that time, too.

I still believe the 2013 NBA Sixth Man of the Year in Smith, then with the New York Knicks, could contribute if he’s asked to, personally, with his natural shooting ability. I’m sure LeBron is happy to have him on his squad again, too.

Next. Three former Cleveland Cavaliers players to root for in Orlando. dark

Meanwhile, the Cavs, who had the league’s second-worst record this now-past season for them at 19-46, will be one of the eight non-top 22 teams not participating in Orlando, just from the Cleveland perspective.