The guard will replace Avery Bradley, who decided to opt out of the games at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex just outside of Orlando, Florida. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the Lakers were moving toward a deal with Smith as soon as Bradley made his decision.
It creates a reshuffled lineup for a team hoping to compete for a title.
Lakers Depth Chart
PG: LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso, Quinn Cook
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JR Smith
SF: Danny Green, Jared Dudley
PF: Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris
C: JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard
The Lakers have a lot of versatility in a mostly positionless rotation, although LeBron James usually runs the offense with a league-leading 10.6 assists per game.
Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook are also capable of playing lead guard, while each will get minutes at the 2.
The biggest questions come with the absence of Bradley, who started 44 of his 49 games as a reliable two-way player who could defend top guards across the NBA.
Smith can certainly help fill this void, bringing with him a proven track record as a defender and an outside shooter, making 37.3 percent of his career three-point shots. He can handle the pressure of the postseason with 130 playoff games on his resume, helping the Cleveland Cavaliers win the 2015-16 title.
His familiarity with LeBron should also create an easy transition, as he spent three-plus years playing alongside the superstar.
However, the 34-year-old hasn't played in the NBA all season and appeared in just 11 contests in 2018-19, last seeing action in November 2018. Though everyone is coming off a long layoff after the season was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Smith could be especially rusty.
His upside should get him plenty of minutes, but don't expect him to jump right into the starting lineup.
The spot will likely go to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who started 20 games this season and is a better replacement for Bradley. The shooting guard is averaging 9.5 points per game this year, his lowest since his rookie season, but is on pace for a career high in field-goal percentage (47.2) and three-point percentage (39.4).
Caldwell-Pope's efficiency makes him a perfect three-and-D player alongside James and Anthony Davis.
Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris should also play significant roles at the forward spots, while JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard will rotate at center.