NBA Free Agents 2020: Predictions and Best Team Fits for JR Smith, More

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2020

NBA Free Agents 2020: Predictions and Best Team Fits for JR Smith, More

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    On the heels of the NBA draft and big-name free agency signings, there remain several prolific role players awaiting their next landing spot, including two-time NBA champion JR Smith.

    The 35-year-old faces uncertainty as he enters his 17th season, as does storied three-point shooter Kyle Korver, who has moved on from the Milwaukee Bucks.

    And what will JJ Barea do next following his release from the Dallas Mavericks?

    Here are a few predictions.

JR Smith

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Smith joined buddy LeBron James in Los Angeles via trade during the 2019-2020 season and won his second NBA Championship. He was not a significant contributor during the team's playoff run, sitting for half of the 20 postseason games.

    He scored more than 10 points once in six regular-season bubble games and played only one game where he appeared for more than 20 minutes. He was, essentially, a bit-part player for the world champs; depth for a team that was the title favorite with or without him.

    Now, months after teaming with James for another world title, his future in the league is in question. 

    There are not a ton of teams beating down the door of a 16-year veteran whose numbers have diminished and whose playing time was minimal. With that said, the Lakers still have one veteran's minimum deal left to issue, and given Smith's chemistry and friendship with the team's leader and biggest star, there is plenty of reason to believe he will be back for one last run.

    If it does not work out or the team opts to go younger, it can always waive Smith. With few other options at his disposal, including snowboarding, the purple and gold appears to be the most likely landing spot.


    Prediction: Los Angeles

JJ Barea

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

    JJ Barea was the heart and soul of the Dallas Mavericks.

    Drafted in 2006 by the team, he spent 11 of his 14 seasons with Dallas before being waived on December 10. This despite signing a one-year deal worth $2.6M. ESPN's Tim MacMahon reported the deal was done intentionally to give the beloved player one last thank you for his contributions. 

    The show of respect and appreciation by Mavs owner Mark Cuban stole headlines and overshadowed the more pertinent question: what's next for Barea?

    Perhaps best known for shutting down LeBron James in the 2011 NBA Finals en route to Dallas' world title victory, Barea was always a gutsy player, a scrappy guard who earned the love and admiration of teammates and fans. His connection to Dallas was undeniable, as evidenced by the emotion he showed when interviewed shortly after being waived by the team earlier this month.

    Barea's friend, agent Christian Santaella, told El Nuevo Dia that three teams in Spain's Liga ACB have expressed interest in the guard. Barea, himself, has expressed interest in continuing his playing career.

    Speaking to media during a virtual meeting he said: "Anything could happen this year, with the COVID, injuries. I might be back here in Dallas playing. I've seen it all in the NBA. I've seen some crazy stuff."

    And therein lies where Barea is, both mentally and emotionally.

    Though he has offers from Spain and may even get a few feelers from other teams looking to enhance their team with veteran leadership, he clearly wants to continue his playing career in Dallas, with the team he helped win a championship a decade ago.

    And if those days as an active player in the NBA are over, do not be surprised to see him on the bench, coaching a new generation of Mavs to be the sort of tenacious player he was.


    Prediction: Dallas, in some form or fashion

Kyle Korver

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    Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

    Kyle Korver could still be a significant asset to a team in season 17. It depends on how married to the idea of playing for a contender the 39-year-old is.

    Korver is still an effective three-point shooter, knocking down 41.8 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. It has always been a significant aspect of his skill set, making him one of the game's most efficient sharpshooters.

    His 16th-best three-point percentage is sorely needed on one of the NBA's most storied (and dysfunctional) teams.

    The New York Knicks shot only 34 percent from the three-point line, a fairly pathetic number at a time when the league is living and breathing on the long ball. That number was enough to rank in the bottom four in the association.

    While Korver is never going to be the spark that ignites the flame in New York, he can bring veteran leadership and experience to a team that has a few young pieces but is unlikely to compete against the top teams in the East.

    A potential key to luring Korver to New York? A reunion with head coach Tom Thibodeau, under whom Korver played two seasons in Chicago. Familiarity with the scheme and system would be a major plus for a player with as much playing time under him as Korver has.

    If he is dead set against being a key piece on a bad team, he could opt to take his talents to Denver, where the three-ball would enhance a team that was simply fantastic in the NBA playoffs a season ago, but playing time could be minimal.

    At this point in his career, Korver must weigh his options and decide what means more to him: chasing gold or playing basketball. If the answer is option two, a trip to The Big Apple and the storied halls of Madison Square Garden is his most viable landing spot.


    Prediction: New York


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