After Avery Bradley announced that he would not be joining the Lakers in Orlando, the franchise quickly turned toward available free agents to fill his role. Losing Bradley is quite a loss for Los Angeles, due to his tough perimeter defense and reliable 3-point shooting, but it's not something this team can't overcome to win a championship. Any team trying to fill holes before the season resumes will face a difficult task, as it's going to take time for any new players to get up to speed. The Lakers, however, are turning to a familiar name to join them in Orlando.
Free agent guard JR Smith officially signed a deal with the Lakers Wednesday afternoon to make him part of the roster heading to Orlando, the team announced in a statement. Smith, who will wear No. 21 for Los Angeles, was one of the top candidates to fill the roster spot vacated by Bradley, as his past experience playing alongside LeBron James in Cleveland could be beneficial for Los Angeles. Smith was relied upon in Cleveland as a spot-up shooter, however, the issue here is that he hasn't played since 2018. Even then, it was only in 11 games with the Cavaliers before he was waived by the team in the summer of 2019.
The pros of signing Smith are his obvious connections with James as well as his floor-spacing ability where he can catch fire from deep at a moment's notice. During a pivotal Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Smith went 5 of 10 from 3-point range, and finished the game with 20 points to give the Cavaliers their first win of the series, which they would later go onto win in seven games after being down 3-1. However, as efficient as Smith can be from beyond the arc, he still hasn't played in two years. Expecting him to be in game shape is a tall order, especially on a team like the Lakers that has championship aspirations.
Luckily, though, the veteran guard won't be the only player in Orlando who hasn't played in a while, as all 22 teams will be dealing with the nearly five-month layoff from basketball action due to the coronavirus pandemic. Smith also likely won't be relied upon too much, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso are expected to receive a bulk of the minutes vacated by Bradley. However, with the No. 1 seed all but locked up at this point for the Lakers, the eight-game seeding schedule can be used as a tune-up for players like Smith to see what he can bring to the table.