Lakers to Sign J.R. Smith for Remainder of Season

17 December 2015: Cleveland Cavaliers Guard J.R. Smith (5) during the game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Oh.
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The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to sign veteran free agent J.R. Smith, ESPN’s Marc Stein reports.

Smith, a 34-year-old shooting guard, was picked up as a replacement for Avery Bradley. Bradley chose to sit out the rest of the season for personal family reasons. 

LA had previously shown interest in him in March when they invited him to a workout. They eventually signed Dion Waiters over him, at the time. Smith will now have another shot at proving his worth in a Laker uniform.

Was Picking up J.R. Smith the Right Call?

At first glance, Smith getting signed doesn’t seem ideal. He hasn’t played an NBA game since November of 2018. Even then, Smith was playing some of the worst basketball of his career.

But the Lakers having the confidence to ink him to a contract hints that he’s still a capable contributor. Shooting perimeter jump shots are what Smith does best. If he can get back to doing that effectively, he’ll likely be called on frequently during the Lakers’ playoff run. 

His talent as a role player was best put on display in the 2016 postseason. There, he helped the Cleveland Cavaliers capture their first title. He averaged 11.5 points per game on 43% shooting from beyond the arc. He followed up with another efficient postseason in 2017, hitting an impressive 50% of 3-pointers.

It’s also worth mentioning that these performances came when he was teammates with LeBron James, who he will be rejoining in LA. Surrounding James with multiple shooters has almost always been a recipe for success, so Smith should fit right in with the Lakers if his outside shooting can get back up to speed.

J.R. Smith isn’t close to the defender that Avery Bradley is. However, he provides plenty of upside offensively. Smith’s been a bit of a wild-card for much of his career but is a player all competitive teams would love to have when he’s at his best. Assuming the Lakers get the better version of Smith, he could end up being the final puzzle piece on their championship team.