Lakers Rumors: Analyzing Latest Buzz on JR Smith Contract Ahead of NBA Restart

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2020

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith passes the ball as he saves it from going out of bound during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

When the Los Angeles Lakers resume their championship chase, LeBron James will have another familiar face by his side.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers are finalizing a deal with free-agent shooting guard JR Smith.

Smith will be replacing Avery Bradley's temporarily vacated spot on the roster. The veteran decided not to rejoin the Lakers for the remainder of the 2019-20 season. Bradley cited health concerns of his six-year-old son Liam, who "has a history of struggling to recover from respiratory illnesses."

Following that decision, the Lakers engaged in contract discussions with Smith. He worked out for them in February, but Dion Waiters landed a rest-of-season deal at the time, according to Woj.

Los Angeles must finalize Smith's addition before the league's July 1 deadline for teams to sign free agents.

Smith last appeared in an NBA game in November 2018. LeBron bolted the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Lakers earlier that summer. Smith's tenure in Cleveland came to an unceremonious end, sitting out much of 2018-19 as he grew dissatisfied with the team. The Cavs waived him after failing to find a trade partner.

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As a result, it's wise to temper expectations about his role. Smith is unlikely to play significant minutes in the playoffs; Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are expected to fill Bradley's void.

Granted, it's plausible Smith will be a factor late in the regular season and have a chance to earn minutes.

Entering the NBA restart, the Lakers hold a 5.5-game advantage over the Los Angeles Clippers for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. After four-plus months between games, Lakers coach Frank Vogel might be flexible with lineups to ease players back into 30-some minutes per night.

Perhaps Smith, a career 37.3 three-point shooter, could capitalize on such an opportunity and force his way into the rotation.

In 2017-18, Smith averaged 8.3 points and 1.8 assists while hitting 37.5 percent from beyond the arc. He shared the floor with LeBron in Cleveland for three-plus years, a relationship that undoubtedly helped Smith catch on with the Lakers.

No matter his role, Smith provides experienced depth to the Lakers backcourt. Overall, he's a veteran occupying an end-of-the-bench role with the potential to contribute as a reserve.

           

Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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