The Los Angeles Lakers’ usual rotation for the 2019-20 campaign will be incomplete for the Orlando restart. Key guard Avery Bradley announced yesterday that he will be sitting out the remainder of the season, primarily to avoid health risks and be alongside his ailing son.
By the league’s modified free agency rules for the restart, teams will be able to sign a free agent if one of its active players become unavailable, either due to injury or electing to opt out of the return.
The NBA’s special ‘transaction window’ opened yesterday as well, so with all that that, the Lakers front office are now scrambling to sign a replacement.
According to the latest rumors, as reported by ESPN’s senior NBA insider Adrian Wojnaworski, LeBron James’s former teammate with the Cleveland Cavaliers, JR Smith, is the “top candidate” to take Bradley’s spot.
“Free-agent guard JR Smith, out of the NBA for two years, has emerged as a leading candidate to replace Avery Bradley on the Los Angeles Lakers’ roster for the season’s Orlando restart, sources told ESPN.
Lakers president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and Smith’s agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, were discussing a possible agreement Tuesday night and were expected to speak again Wednesday, sources said.”
Smith is a 15-year NBA veteran, but as mentioned, he’s been out of the league for almost two years now. He hasn’t played since November 2018, and was waived by the Cavs on July 2019.
While he appears to be an ideal acquisition when you consider his lengthy playoff and championship experience, as well as the vast knowledge to play with James (which is always important), it doesn’t really outweigh the holes in his game.
First, there’s the occasional and sometimes very, very untimely mental lapses, like that infamous gaffe in Game 1 of the 2018 Finals. Look away, Cav and LeBron fans.
Don’t get swayed by his strange reputation of hitting contested shots. For the most part, no one knows what he’s going to do, when is he going have a ‘Shaqtin a Fool’ moment, or what’s the next bad shot he’s going to take. It’s the bad kind of ‘Mama Mentality.’
Besides, don’t the Lakers already have Dion Waiters for that?
All jokes aside, there are more factors. There’s also the plummeting productivity and overall effectiveness, particularly in his last three seasons. Smith has only averaged 8.2 points on 37.9% shooting since his 2016-17 campaign. In 2017-18, his last season with James, he started with numbers of 5.3 points on 27.5% in his first 10 games, and actually had 26 games where he shot below 29%.
This is not even exactly a JR Smith-bashing piece as we are just describing the normal career trajectory of a player in his caliber. He’s a lifelong freak athlete that is now slowed down by age. He’s turning 35 in September, so gone are the blazing first step, strong hands to create space, and leaping ability go over defenders. The outside shot is his only true redeeming factor, and even that is debatable in this situation since there are other better choices.
Jamal Crawford or Joe Johnson, anyone? Have the Lakers forgotten that they exist? Those are two veteran shooters with great clutch genes. Heck, even Trey Burke is an arguably better option – he’s had two 20+ PPG per 36 seasons in the last three years.
Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. Laker fans better hope someone in the front office will overrule LeBron.