Opinion: JR Smith’s contract is a win for everyone involved


Dan Armelli

Dan Armelli

Earl Joseph “J.R.” Smith will officially be back to help the Cleveland Cavaliers in their quest to repeat as NBA Champions.

What was long looked at as a formality, Smith and the Cavs’ stalemate lasted all off-season long and well into the preseason. Smith was eventually able to net a four-year, $57 million deal.

The 31-year-old guard will be making an average of $14.25 million a year, and while that may seem like a lot of cash for this particular 12 year veteran, the Cavs had no choice but to re-sign him.

With absolutely no cap space to sign anyone of worth, and Smith proving to be one of the key pieces to Cleveland’s championship run, the Cavs’ only option to fill the starting two-guard spot was to re-sign Smith. All it took was some flirtation by the Philadelphia 76ers to get the two sides to agree to a deal.

Smith has long carried a stigma with his name for antics on and off the court. But he’s cleaned up his act since he’s come to Cleveland, a big testament to LeBron James and the leadership David Griffin’s been able to put in their locker room.

Initially labeled as the throwaway piece in the deal that sent him and Iman Shumpert from New York to Cleveland a season and a half ago, Smith has made himself irreplaceable, both because of his play and the Cavs’ historical willingness to spend money.

The former Sixth Man of the Year started all 77 games he played in last year, shooting 40% on a blistering 510 3-pt attempts. Smith provides the spacing needed on a LeBron James-led team.

I don’t think the Cavs were ever in serious danger of losing Smith to another team, but not having him for the start of the regular season wouldn’t have helped things. Also, it would’ve been a real shame if Smith weren’t able to show up on ring night because of a contract squabble.

The Cavs would’ve had to trot out Shumpert, who has been very inconsistent with the Cavs, with Jordan McCrae having to take on a role bigger than the Cavs would want right now. With Smith, head coach Ty Lue gets to work with more familiar lineups while easing in young guards like McCrae and rookie Kay Felder as planned.

Bringing Smith back allows the Cavs to do many of the things they did well last year, as well as what they want to build on this year; both involve shooting and defending.

The cherry on top of all the statistics, schematics and economics is that Smith is just a straight up fun player to watch. He’s the only player I know that has the guts to lob a fast-break, no-look alley-oop to LeBron James in a win-or-go-home Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

With four more years of Smith, Cavs fans have a lot to be excited about.

Dan Armelli is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].