NBA Rumors: Latest Contract Buzz on JR Smith, Cavaliers' Andre Drummond

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2020

FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (5) dribbles to the basket during the first quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Cleveland. Unhappy with his new role, Smith said he hopes the team trades him. Smith hasn’t formally requested a trade, but said Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, that Cleveland’s front office knows he wants out.  (AP Photo/Scott R. Galvin, File)
Scott R. Galvin/Associated Press

With the NBA set to resume its 2019-20 season on July 30, some teams are left scrambling to get playoff-ready rosters into place.

Players have been given the ability to opt-out of the Orlando, Florida restart if they so choose, and Los Angeles Lakers point guard Avery Bradley is one of the more notable players to have done so.

While the 29-year-old is hardly a centerpiece on a squad that includes LeBron James and Anthony Davis, he is still a valuable role player for Los Angeles.

This season, Bradley averaged 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 in roughly 24 minutes of play.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Lakers plan to add free agent JR Smith ahead of Tuesday's transaction window:

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

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

From a chemistry standpoint, adding the 34-year-old makes perfect sense. He spent three seasons alongside James with the Cleveland Cavaliers and helped bring them a championship in the 2015-16 season.

According to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Smith has also been working out with Lakers players during the league shutdown:

Brad Turner @BA_Turner

Sources: Free agent guard JR Smith is a possibility for the Lakers to sign in wake of Avery Bradley opting not to play in NBA restart. Smith has been in LA working out with several Lakers in past few weeks. He had worked out for the Lakers before they signed guard Dion Waiters.

While there's no definitive proof that Smith has been working with Lakers players on the court, he was spotted riding bicycles with James and Davis at the end of May in Los Angeles (h/t NBA on ESPN).

Chemistry may be less of a factor after the layoff than it would be if teams had been playing these last couple of months because NBA sides will have to reestablish whatever chemistry they're going to carry into Orlando.

However, Smith's history with James and recent presence around the team makes him arguably the best possible choice for the Lakers.

Another strong option might have been DeMarcus Cousins, who spent a year alongside Davis with the New Orleans Pelicans and signed with Los Angeles in the offseason before suffering a torn ACL last August.

However, Cousins has told teams he is focused on making his return next season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

The Lakers held on to the 29-year-old for months after his injury but eventually waived him in late February.


Andre Drummond

Paul Beaty/Associated Press

The Cleveland Cavaliers were a title contender when James and Smith were on the roster. However, in the nearly two years since the former left, they have struggled to field a competitive team. They currently own an Eastern Conference-worst 19-46 record.

The Cavaliers have added some intriguing pieces over the last year, though, including rookies Darius Garland and Collin Sexton and midseason addition Andre Drummond.

While Garland and Sexton are under contract for the foreseeable future, Drummond had the option of opting out after what became an eight-game 2020 audition in Cleveland.

However, the 26-year-old has already made it clear that he plans to return for at least next season.

"Yeah, it's going to be hard to give up, so you can count on me being in Cleveland still," Drummond told ESPN's Le Batard & Friends Network Show podcast.

The next challenge for Cleveland will be figuring out if it wants to sign Drummond for the long term and/or if it can convince him to do so. According to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, the Cavaliers should be able to lock him up if they decide to.

"At this point, sources say, both sides have shown interest in an extension. But there's so much to figure out before late October, when Drummond could technically sign a new deal," he wrote.

As Fedor pointed out, a lot can change between now and the offseason. A roster or coaching shakeup could convince the UConn product he'd be better off elsewhere—and there's no guarantee his opting-in is about being in Cleveland.

By opting in, Drummond will stand to make nearly $29 million next season, according to Spotrac. That's plenty of incentive to be a Cavalier in 2021. For now, it appears he is at least interested in being one beyond then.