It's September 8th and JR Smith hasn't signed a contract yet. He was a member of Cleveland Cavaliers for the last year and a half and played in two NBA Finals, where he won one ring. He was very emotional after the Game 7 and said a couple of times that LeBron James and Cavs supported him and helped him to pass those tough moments, but it seems that they are going in different directions.
"League sources said that Smith and his camp were not overly concerned about reaching a deal, with a belief that the Cavs have put a multi-year offer in the $10 million per year neighborhood on the table weeks ago. They added that Smith and his advisors have been looking for a slightly bigger offer and that waiting things out was simply about leverage and trying to get a slightly better deal," mentioned Steve Kyler from Basketball Insider.
If we look that Cavs offered $10M per year to Smith, I see that as a disrespectful offer. I understand that Cavs are in a tough situation with a salary cap and their payroll for the next season is astonishing $116.2M (only Trail Blazers need to pay more, exactly $119.6M), but their backup SG has $9.7M and Cavs wants that their starting SG accepts $10M. I can't see that as a possibility.
JR Smith and his agent are looking for a slightly bigger amount of money, somewhere near $15M. Dan Gilbert, the Cavs owner, will not raise the offer because of penalties that will they need to pay because they are a way to high above the salary cap. So, it seems that these two sides won't find an agreement.
Almost all teams completed their rosters and there aren't many teams that can and will land JR Smith. JR Smith isn't so young, he is 30 years old. He has experience, but not very good role model for younger players. So, what is the situation for JR Smith? Which teams have space in their salary cap to sign this great spot up shooter?
Philadelphia 76ers is finally changing its strategy. Sam Hinkie and his plan finally start its final phase. That is acquiring great players and making good results. 10-72 isn't a good result. Not good, not bad, it's a disaster. But, these days are behind us.
76ers has a team full of potential superstars. Simmons, Noel, Okafor, Embid, Saric, etc. Also with that comes huge space in a salary cap. They have the lowest payroll among all teams in the NBA, only $68.1M, which leaves them $27.5M free. With these amount of money, they can acquire JR Smith easily.
The real question is "Does Phila need JR?". They acquired this offseason Gerald Henderson, 28-years old SG that played in Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers. He will be their starting option. JR Smith is the overall better player, but they assigned Henderson, I don't think that they will try to pursue JR. But, never say never.
Also, they have four more shooting guards on their roster. Nik Stauskas, Hollis Thompson, Brandon Paul and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. They are all young players and if they decide to acquire JR, they will need to release some of them.
I see Brooklyn Nets, as a team that will replace Philadelphia as a rearmost team in the NBA in the upcoming years. Despite that, they have one quality players, Brook Lopez and couple of average players like Jeremy Lin, Trevor Booker and Bojan Bogdanovic (whom I see as one of the contenders for MIP award, but that will not influence very much on Nets results), one old player Luis Scola and bunch of average and below average players like Anthony Bennet, Randy Foye, Justin Hamilton etc.
Also what is bad for their situation is that they have a minimal number of picks in the next 3-4 years. They will have two second round picks on the 2017 Draft night and none in 2018! Although this franchise is ruined now, it will be worse. Nets fans need to be real and to comprehend that tough years are coming for them.
If somehow JR Smith comes to the Brooklyn, maybe they can save something and beat my predictions. In that case, JR will be the starting SG and Bojan will need to move on SF spot. He has a height for that, he will need to put a couple of pounds more, but that isn't a big problem. Also, other options are passable.
Bojan can be the starting SG and JR backup. That will give a bigger role to Bojan and maybe that's a reasonable option. Bojan is making progress, he was the best scorer in 2016 Olympics, scoring 25.3 PPG. Next year we can expect great numbers from him. That's why he is one of the contenders for MIP next year. I expect big from him.
With these players they can make many different lineups, but Jeremy Lin will be starting PG and Brook Lopez will be at the C position. JR Smith, Bojan Bogdanovic, Randy Foye, Sean Kilpatrick and others will be the choice for SG and SF position for Kenny Atkinson. Trevor Booker will be the starting PF and Luis Scola will be backup. With this roster and maybe a stroke of luck they can avoid the same path as 76ers.
One of the teams that will dominate in the upcoming years. Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, with the addition of Rubio, Bjelica, Muhammad and Dieng that will be a great team. And what will JR Smith bring to the Timberwolves?
If they land him they will get a backup SG, that can replace Wiggins and drain a 3 easily. With him, they can try to pursue a playoff this year, but it isn't their goal this year. Future is bright for them and we are going to watch them in the spring often in the forthcoming years.
What will happen with the Cavs?
If they let go JR, they will have Iman Shumpert, Jordan McRae, James Jones and Mike Dunleavy on the shooting guard position. This isn't enough for further clashes with Raptors, Celtics, Pacers and eventually clash with the Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals.
James Jones is maybe inseparable from LeBron James because they played together in the last 6 NBA Finals. Mike Dunleavy is 35, Iman Shumpert is a better defender than JR, but he is limited in the offense. McRae was a beast this summer in Summer League, but Summer League is completely different from NBA.
They can't rely on these players as shooting guards. Of course, they can do some trade until 2017 NBA All-Star Game, but I think it's better for them to keep JR Smith, who got used to the Cavs and made great connections with other players. Chemistry is very important part and without JR Smith they can damage that. And maybe that is their weapon against superteam on the other side of the USA.
All of these teams can try to acquire JR Smith. Will he accept that offer if they do? That's a tough question. If he wants money he will accept that because I don't see that Dan Gilbert will dig deeper in his pockets, which are pretty empty right now, because of all these penalties they should pay.
If he looks for the rings then all this article is useless. He will stay in Cavs and that's it. But, I think that he wants rings, but not for the small amount of money. He doesn't want to be disrespectful and Cavs front office should try to soften JR a bit and find some compromise. It's better for both sides.