The Cleveland Cavaliers have pursued a variety of different avenues when it comes to dealing veteran guard J.R. Smith, whose contract for next season offered the team a bargaining chip. However, a new report indicates that the Cavaliers will presumably come up short in any further trade efforts.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic looked at the Cavaliers’ rebuilding efforts and roster spots, while noting that simply releasing Smith appears to be the expected result:
“For another couple of days, JR Smith occupies the 14th spot. He’s going to be traded or released, although it’s growing more likely that the Cavs will not be able to use his contract as trade bait. So if (when) they cut him by June 30, which is Sunday, they’ll owe him only $3.9 million and will save $11 million off the $137 million payroll they have right now. Dumping Smith’s contract is the easiest, most obvious way to shed salary.”
The Cavaliers had hoped that other teams who were looking for some salary cap flexibility would be interested in acquiring Smith, who turns 34 in September. Prior to last week’s NBA draft, there had even been some speculation that the Cavs might be able to acquire a first-round pick in such a deal, but no such trade was completed.
Smith was exiled by the team last November after accusing the team of tanking the 2018-19 campaign in order to pick up a high draft pick. By the end of the year, the Cavaliers finished with a 19-63 record and garnered the fifth overall pick in the draft, which they used on Vanderbilt University guard Darius Garland.
Prior to that issue surfacing, the Cavs had sought to trade Smith, whose streaky statistical numbers had declined since signing his four-year-deal in 2016.
In his last full season with the team in 2017-18, Smith averaged 8.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists.