After weeks of speculation, the Los Angeles Lakers are on the verge of officially signing veteran guard and one-time NBA champion, J.R. Smith.
With Avery Bradley recently letting the Lakers know that he won’t be traveling to Orlando to play in the bubble as the 2019-20 NBA season resumes, Los Angeles has been considering their options to help fill the void left by Bradley’s absence. Although Bradley’s defense on the perimeter is something that can’t easily be replaced, nor will it be with the addition of Smith, the team still need some insurance in the backcourt.
Now that it’s only a matter of time before the Lakers make the signing of Smith official, we can start to look at what the 34-year-old brings to the table as Los Angeles prepares for what could be a lengthy playoff run.
Another Scorer Off The Bench
Smith has never averaged more than 18.1 points per game during his NBA career, which came back in 2012-13 campaign with the New York Knicks. He’s never been the first option on a team in the league, and he never will be at this point in career, but Smith can be a solid contributor for the Lakers while they try to compete for a title against the best of the best in the Western Conference.
Only three players currently on the team are averaging double digits in the scoring column. Those three are fairly obvious with Anthony Davis (26.7), LeBron James (25.7), and Kyle Kuzma (12.5) leading the way. Bradley averaged 8.5 points per game in a little over 24 minutes per contest, which is fifth on the team with Caldwell-Pope slightly ahead of him at 9.5.
With a career average of 12.5, Smith should help carry the offensive load off the bench. Another key contributor offensively could be Dion Waiters, who has yet to play a game in purple and gold but could turn out to be a valuable asset along with Smith.
One of the best attributes in Smith’s game is being able to create his own shot while being a legitimate threat from beyond the arc. He may not be the scorer he once was as he’s averaged less than 10 points a season in his last three years with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he’s one of those players that can light up the scoreboard on any given night.
Smith has scored 37 points or more five times in his career and over 40 three times. The Lakers may need that kind of scoring threat during the playoffs, but it’ll be his outside shooting that could be his best contribution to the team once the season resumes in late July.
The former NBA Sixth Man of the Year may not be Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson in terms of efficiency from three-point range, but he can put on a show from distance. Twice in his career, he shot 40 percent or better from beyond the arc. One of those two seasons he was playing alongside LeBron when they took down the Golden State Warriors in incredible fashion, pulling off perhaps the greatest comeback in NBA history.
Veteran Experience In The Playoffs
One of the best things about the current Lakers roster is not just the two superstars at the helm, but the wealth of veteran experience in the playoffs. Smith will be the sixth player on the squad that has won one or more NBA titles during their career. He joins the list of former champions that includes James, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, and Quinn Cook.
Along with all the champions on the team, the Lakers have the advantage of having quite a few players with playoff experience. Jared Dudley, Dwight Howard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Markieff Morris all have valuable playoff experience, which will be crucial if Los Angeles wants to go the distance.
Experience in the postseason is unrated, especially when the majority of the team has that kind of experience. Smith only adds to an already battle-tested squad filled with players either wanting to win their first title or add to their legacy by lifting another Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Although it remains to be seen how Smith will be used, the addition of the seasoned veteran only helps the Lakers as they resume their journey to win a 17th NBA title in the franchise’s history. Los Angeles will have their challenges in the West, namely the L.A. Clippers, who also have a team filled with postseason experience, but this team is as stacked as can be and ready to put on a show in Orlando.