J.R. Smith And King James?
While LeBron James is hanging out in China, avoiding everything Darfur related, it looks like his NBA team is working on bringing him another sidekick, one that just might help keep him in Cleveland when he becomes a free agent after 2010.
Apparently, the Cavaliers are in talks with Denver in an effort to potentially acquire J.R. Smith, a restricted free agent for the Nuggets. There’s a lot of talk about mid-level exceptions and luxury tax issues concerning Denver and while the details may be complicated, it does look like the Cavaliers are trying to pair Smith with James.
If the Cavs are willing to pay Smith more than the mid-level – and they should be – then looking back at that trade as a template would behoove them.
Smith fits the parameters of a potential “LeBron James sidekick” to a tee. Despite coming off the bench in all of his 74 games for Denver last season, Smith still managed to put up 12.3 points per game and shoot 157-for-390 (40.3 percent) from beyond the arc. That was only in 19.2 minutes per game. Smith also shot 46.1 percent from the field – a solid number for a perimeter player – and had the ability to finish strong around the rim with 36 dunks. Look at Cleveland’s backcourt today, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who has that kind of ability to attack the rim and finish while being surrounded by power forwards and centers.
Plus, he’s only 22, meaning that he can be a potential long-term sidekick instead of a quick fix, like Michael Redd or what Laura [Larry] Hughes was supposed to be.
While Smith would represent potentially the best player James has had on his team — with absolutely no offense to Zydrunas Ilgauskas — he does have some DUI-related baggage remaining.
With that in mind, I have to question whether or not Smith does in fact fit “the parameters of a potential ‘LeBron James sidekick’ to a tee.” Let’s not forget about his role in the Nuggets/Knicks brawl in 2006, which led to a 10-game suspension. And we have last season, which saw Smith get suspended for the first three games of the regular season for his involvement in a nightclub incident.
However, because Danny Ferry wants so desperately to keep LeBron in Cleveland for the foreseeable future, biting the bullet and signing a player with past behavior problems probably seems like a risk worth taking. There’s no doubting Smith’s talent. His behavior, on the other hand, is another story.