Veteran shooting guard JR Smith is a free agent. That statement may be equal parts terrifying and exhilarating depending on the moment, but the 33-year-old NBA player with 3-point proficiency should help a team this upcoming season if it knows how to rein in the streaky shooter.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers waiving the one-time NBA champion and former Sixth Man of the Year, let’s examine organizations which should pick up the phone or slide into Smith’s DMs offering what will probably be a veteran’s minimum contract for the fall.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Los Angeles Lakers are “unlikely” to sign Smith after he clears waivers; there will be no reunion with LeBron James in Hollywood.
However, Smith joining the other Staples Center team makes sense. Smith, a lifetime 37.3% 3-point shooter, could definitely hug the perimeter and play a supporting, depth-piece role with the Clippers. With the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, L.A.’s offense is going to rely heavily on the highly lauded All-Stars, who will need strong complementary players around them. Smith works as a perimeter shooter and 2 guard if head coach Doc Rivers decides to play Leonard and George at the two forward positions.
It may sound redundant to have the streaky shooter on the team alongside another Sixth Man of the Year in Lou Williams, but in moments when Williams is resting, Smith is a strong consideration as a role player. Further, the Clippers attempted 25.8 3-pointers last season—third-fewest in the league—and converted on the second-best percentage. Now, it’s a different team with Leonard and George on board and other players gone, chiefly veteran forward Danilo Gallinari and rising sophomore guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. If the Clips are looking for an efficient shooter to expand the volume of triples for the team, Smith makes sense in this role.
This choice is slightly strange, since executive vice president David Griffin has swindled other NBA teams all summer to revamp the Pelicans. He fast-tracked the rebuild by winning the lottery and drafting Zion Williamson, while also profiting off the Los Angeles Lakers’ desperation for Anthony Davis.
However, the shooting on this team is not a strength at the moment. Veteran guard J.J. Redick signed with the organization this offseason, teaming up with fellow Duke alum Zion Williamson. Redick is a career 39.2% 3-point shooter. E’Twaun Moore is also a quality shooter. Outside of those two, however, it looks like the Pels’ perimeter shooting woes could persist. They attempted just shy of 30 treys a game and hit the league’s seventh-worst percentage at 34.4.
Smith started in New Orleans with the (then-)Hornets, when he was drafted 18th overall out of high school in 2004. He would make his Bayou reunion, possibly employed as a mentor for the young roster.
The two biggest offseason moves for the Celtics were signing three-time All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and free agent big man Enes Kanter. Beyond that, Boston is still relatively wing-heavy with Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Jayson Tatum all claiming spots on the perimeter.
Head coach Brad Stevens’ team also attempted the seventh-most 3s last season. That trend could continue due to Walker’s 3-point shooting and a potential move to bring Smith in on the action.
Another team in desperate need of shooting, Ryan Saunders’ group will head into next season with minimal options, including Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, Jeff Teague, and rookie Jarrett Culver. Out of that group, only Covington sticks out as an extremely confident perimeter player on offense.
Culver, drafted sixth overall out of Texas Tech, should be able to put the pieces together in his career, although he struggled from deep his sophomore season in the Big 12, averaging 30.4% from 3-point range.
Smith could create the next chapter in his life by teaching Culver a few steps in the swingman’s career.