7. JR Smith, Cleveland Cavaliers
Kyle Korver isn’t the only swingman in Cleveland who should be dangled in trade bait over the coming months.
According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, the Cavaliers’ front office wants head coach Tyronn Lue to “play younger players” this season, which likely doesn’t bode well for J.R. Smith’s chances of receiving meaningful minutes. In fact, the Cavs reportedly “told Smith’s circle over the summer that playing time might be tight for him,” per Vardon.
With Rodney Hood penciled in as the Cavaliers’ starting 2-guard and Cedi Osman likely to start at the 3, Smith will be competing with Korver, Jordan Clarkson and David Nwaba for minutes off the bench. If Cleveland falls out of playoff contention ahead of the trade deadline, it could pivot toward a youth movement in the second half of the season, making Smith even more expendable.
It may be difficult to find a workable trade for Smith, as he’s set to earn $14.7 million this season, but only $3.87 million of his nearly $15.7 million salary for next year is guaranteed. If the Cavaliers are willing to take on more long-term money — as they should be, since salary-cap space will be effectively inconsequential for them until 2020 — they could flip Smith for a similarly undesirable contract so long as it came attached with an out-of-favor young prospect and/or a draft pick.
Smith told Jesse Washington of The Undefeated that he wants to “help the younger guys” with things such as “managing time” and “teaching the rights from wrongs,” so Cleveland may value him as a locker room presence. He’s one of only four holdovers from the Cavaliers’ championship-winning 2015-16 squad alongside Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye, so he could be a helpful tone-setter when it comes to the team’s culture.
Then again, who could ever forget his brain fart during Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals? Rather than relying on Smith as a cultural foundation, the Cavaliers may be better off excising him from their roster and focusing more on their younger players.