The Cleveland Cavaliers will be forever indebted to J.R. Smith for the key role he played in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Unfortunately for Smith, though, that doesn’t mean the wine and gold are interested in facilitating his departure from the team absent financial justification for doing so.
After Thursday’s trade deadline came and went without a deal involving Smith, Chris Fedor of cleveland.com reported that the Cavs team and Smith will not be engaging in buyout discussions before season’s end:
#Cavs were not able to find a taker for JR Smith before the buzzer. There will not be any buyout discussions involving him, league sources tell @clevelanddotcom
— Chris Fedor (@ChrisFedor) February 7, 2019
Smith is earning $14.7 million this season. Rather than sacrifice some or all of his salary to encourage Cleveland to waive him, Smith is apparently content letting this season play out. He was banished from the team following a trade request in November, when it became readily apparent the Cavs would not be competing for the playoffs in 2018-19, instead embracing a youth movement.
Fortunately for Cleveland, the final year remaining on Smith’s contract is only partially guaranteed for $3.9 million. The most likely outcome here is the Cavs waiving him after the regular season and incurring that small financial penalty, allowing Smith to become a free agent.
It remains to be seen how much interest the 33-year-old will garner on the open market. He played poorly on both ends of the floor in 2016-17 and 2017-18, unable to muster the two-way viability that made him an integral cog of Cleveland’s only title team in franchise history. Smith seems unlikely to embrace a role as mentor to younger players, too, a reality that will further diminish his value come July.