JR Smith is now a Los Angeles Laker as a replacement for guard Avery Bradley. As the NBA slowly begins its approach to return to action, 22 teams are finalizing their rosters that they want to bring to Orlando.
Replacement players had to be signed as a means to fill the void left by players who elected not to travel due to personal or health concerns.
Acquiring a player of Smith’s abilities can undoubtedly help the Lakers in the quest for a championship, but there can also be flaws to his game that could hold them back.
The Lakers might have the deepest depth of any NBA team after the acquisition of Smith.
Just before the NBA went on hiatus, the purple and gold beefed up their backcourt even further by bringing in veteran guard Dion Waiters. Waiters and Smith join other guards like Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Quinn Cook, Rajon Rondo, and Alex Caruso.
Time will tell how head coach Frank Vogel will juggle the minutes with his backcourt and find a spot for Smith. The remaining eight ‘seeding games’ may be the opportunity for Vogel to play around with certain line-ups and find a specific role for Smith.
So what ‘Pro’s’ does Smith bring to crack the Lakers rotation?
It goes without saying that Smith has never seen a shot he didn’t like. The catch and shoot trait along with the fearlessness to take those shots makes him the perfect fit in the Lakers front-court offense.
With LeBron James already playing with Smith, both share a chemistry of knowing how to find one another on the court. More often than not it is James with the ball surveying the defense while Smith probes the perimeter in anticipation of getting an open-look.
In his last full season with the Cavaliers back in 2017-2018, Smith shot 39.7% in catch and shoot opportunities from deep compared to Bradley who shot 36.4%. While his explosion and athleticism might have trailed off and faded away after the long absence from playing, Smith still has the uncanny ability to hit shots when called upon.
Another facet that cannot go unnoticed is the confidence and ability to knock down clutch baskets in the post-season. In game five the 2017 NBA Finals, Smith shot an impressive 7-8 from beyond the arc showcasing that the stage is not too bright for him.
There may be scenarios where the Lakers will need to turn to Smith as player who can get them back into a game with just his shooting alone. His experience will pay off tremendously.
The obvious concern that comes with Smith is rust. Smith’s last NBA action was on November 19th of 2018. Even though he would workout with several NBA players and stay in NBA shape, the speed and competitive in-game action may take him a few games to get up to speed.
The other knock on Smith would be the effort that is often lax on the defensive end of the floor. When the Lakers lost Bradley, they lost their best on ball defender and somebody who can give other teams elite back-court players fits.
While Smith isn’t completely helpless on defense, he does take some plays off and if that is done in the playoffs those plays taken off can result in large scoring runs. Can people ever truly forget this Smith play?
There are times when Smith can give great effort on defense and rotate correctly, get into passing lanes, and contest shots heavily.
However, playing for Vogel who is a defensive minded head coach, that is where he will have to leave an impact consistently in order to earn minutes in the rotation.
With the shooting prowess, experience in the post-season, and familiarity with James, Smith is a very sound addition for the Lakers. Time will tell if the rust, the defensive lapses, or the Lakers depth in the backcourt will leave him out of the rotation.
One thing we can be sure of is that the city of Los Angeles would not mind putting an APB on Smith’s shirt.