On Tuesday, Los Angeles Lakers starting guard Avery Bradley announced he won’t take part when the NBA season resumes in July.
Enter JR Smith?
Sources: Free agent guard JR Smith is a possibility for the Lakers to sign in wake of Avery Bradley opting not to play in NBA restart. Smith has been in LA working out with several Lakers in past few weeks. He had worked out for the Lakers before they signed guard Dion Waiters.
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— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) June 24, 2020
Bradley, who started 44 games this season, said Tuesday that he will not travel to the NBA’s Orlando bubble for family reasons. His oldest son, Liam, has previously battled to recover from respiratory illnesses.
ESPN story on starting Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley opting-out of Orlando. As committed to my Lakers teammates and the organization as I am, I ultimately play basketball for my family. https://t.co/Qz4W02wChQ
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 24, 2020
Per the NBA’s return guidelines, teams can replace a player who opts out. So who might take Bradley’s place? Our Nick Wright offered a few options on Wednesday morning  including Smith.
“This is a significant loss [for the Lakers] … On the court, this is a big deal for the Lakers … He was brought in for a very specific reason, which is his perimeter defense … Now, the question is how do the Lakers fill that void? … I would sign JR for depth.”
“I 1000% support Avery Bradley. … On the court this is a big deal for the Lakers. Bradley’s counting stats aren’t wildly impressive but he was brought in for a very specific reason his perimeter defense. … I’d sign J.R. Smith & consider starting Caruso.” @getnickwrightpic.twitter.com/jp4WaVOkf5
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) June 24, 2020
And according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers and Smith’s agent, Rich Paul who also represents LeBron have been in touch:
“Lakers president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and Smith’s agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, were discussing a possible agreement Tuesday night and were expected to speak again Wednesday, sources said.”
ESPN story on JR Smith emerging as a leading candidate to join Lakers roster for Orlando restart. https://t.co/krFNVYdzwr
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 24, 2020
By signing Smith, the Lakers wouldn’t have to worry about a new piece getting acclimated to playing with LeBron. The two spent four seasons together in Cleveland, winning a title in 2016 in the midst of four consecutive NBA Finals appearances.
That championship, unfortunately, wasn’t Smith’s most famous Cleveland moment.
Fans online were quick to joke Wednesday about that time Smith forgot the score in Game 1 of the 2018 Finals, wondering whether the Lakers might be headed for trouble. But could Smith actually help LeBron win another title?
His 3-point shooting was key when the Cavaliers won the 2016 Finals over the 73-9 Warriors. Smith connected on 35.5% of his 3s (16-for-45), second to only Stephen Curry for the series. And with the Cavaliers trailing 2-0, Smith hit five 3s in a pivotal Game 3 win, scoring 20 points.
Considering LeBron & Co. are in need of shooting the Lakers rank 17th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (35.5%) and connect on only 11.2 3s per game, 22nd in the league   ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith thinks JR is a good fit.
“I like this. JR Smith is a career 37% shooter from 3-point range, not to mention the fact that he shoots 37% from 3-point range in the postseason. He’s streaky. Obviously he can defend. He’s a big guard. And from a character standpoint, I don’t think he gets enough credit … If the Lakers bring him onboard, you know that’s something that LeBron James had to support … I hope he gets the job.”
As of now, the Lakers are co-favorites to win the NBA championship along with the Milwaukee Bucks at +250, via FOX Bet. Adding a bit of 3-point shooting and a familiar face could help take Los Angeles over the top.
If the Lakers ultimately decide to pull the trigger, one thing’s for sure: Smith will let it fly in Orlando.
And that might just be what the Lakers and LeBron need.