The Philadelphia 76ers should push hard for the former Sixth Man of the Year.
After a year-long standoff in Cleveland, J.R. Smith was finally waived this week. Now he’s an unrestricted free agent, with one possible destination ruled out. He met with Milwaukee, but the Kyle Korver news could change the tenor of those conversations.
If the Philadelphia 76ers can get into the J.R. sweepstakes, they should. There’s a lot of perceived baggage with Smith — his personality, his Finals blunder, etc. — but his impact on Cleveland’s championship team too often goes unrecognized. He still has value as a high-octane shooter in the second unit.
The Sixers can offer Smith a real chance at minutes. While Philadelphia has a lot invested in Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle, neither is a prolific shooter. James Ennis can hit the occasional spot-up 3, but he’s not nearly as dynamic as Smith.
Upon losing J.J. Redick, Philadelphia is down on high-level shooters. For a team centered on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, adding more perimeter juice to the second unit makes sense. Smith can fill a valuable role.
Brett Brown can put Smith in some of the same actions J.J. Redick once ran. While he’s not the same shooter Redick is and takes a different approach to scoring, Smith is a proven threat on the move. He can curl around screens, run dribble handoffs and knock down spot-up triples.
Smith also has the shake to create space off the dribble. While he’s not quite in prime Knicks form — he’s coming off a year-long absence as well — Smith can still add more variety to a bench that’s currently lacking in shot creation.
In his last full season, Smith averaged 8.3 points in 28.1 minutes per game — shooting 37.5 percent on 4.8 attempts from deep. Those aren’t staggering numbers, but he’s still an effective shooter who’s better served as a bench piece at this stage in his career.
There’s no guarantee Smith is a good player in 2019. He spent a year in hiding, waiting for the now-rebuilding Cavs to set him free. For the Sixers, it’s absolutely a risk worth taking. He’s an experienced winner and someone who, at his best, can provide important buckets in the second unit.
The risk isn’t major either. It’s a veteran minimum contract, almost certainly for one year. If things were to go south, cutting J.R. provides an easy out. Given the current free agent market, there’s no much to lose. Smith can fight for minutes in Philadelphia.