J.R. Smith’s time as a Cavalier is at an end.
As first reported early on Monday, and announced by the team in a press release on Monday evening, Smith has been waived by the Cavs. Per reports, the Cavs are stretching the $4.37 guarantee Smith will have on his contract and will have $1.45 million cap hit for Smith’s deal over the next three years. Per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Cleveland will recoup somewhere between $500,000 and $555,000 if/when Smith signs a deal with another team.
As calculated by Early Bird Rights, waiving Smith puts the Cavs about $2.5 million under the luxury tax line — a smart financial move for a team that isn’t likely to be good next season. And if Smith wasn’t going to get a high-level asset to Koby Altman’s — be it a valuable first-round pick or a young player on a bad-ish contract a team wants to dump — then it’s makes sense to move on. It was inevitable one way or the other since Smith has been away from the team since last November.
Smith took to Instagram earlier on Monday to confirm his exit:
What’s next for Smith is unclear. Per ESPN, LeBron James’ Lakers aren’t a likely landing spot for him once he clear waivers in two days. Based on last year, a rebuilding team isn’t a good fit for him. (It’s not that he’s a bad influence on young players. but he wants to try and win.) So that means teams like Clippers, Bucks, Sixers or some other team in need of shooting could come calling. At 33, Smith isn’t at his peak, but he can likely still contribute something.
Smith also should be remembered fondly for his time with the Cavs. Originally a throw-in in a trade that got the team Iman Shumpert, Smith proved to be far more important to the Cavs. In the 2016 Finals, he hit threes in Game 7 that helped set up the team’s ultimate win. He was also one of the stars of the parade and will be forever beloved for his role in that title. His gaffe in the 2018 Finals shouldn’t take away from that.
And while this end wasn’t fitting for someone who contributed so much, that shouldn’t take away from what he provided and meant to Cavs fans.