The season is winding down and J.R. Smith is still without an NBA team. Smith has had a roller-coaster career filled with moments where he looked like a star and others where he looked like he did not care. His last two seasons, however, have been a low point. After sitting out most of last season with the Cavaliers, Smith has spent this season waiting for a team to sign him.
Opportunity may knock for another chance, however, the writing is on the wall for Smith’s career.
J.R. Smith’s wild ride
One of the last players left in the NBA who was drafted out of high school, Smith has had a surprisingly long career, considering the bumps he’s hit along the way. He first made waves as a member of the New Orleans Hornets, although his poor shooting as a young player limited his opportunities to shine. Still, when Smith was on he could shoot with the best in the league.
After two years in New Orleans, Smith found a home in Denver. Here, he had a breakout of sorts, averaging 13 points per game behind Carmelo Anthony and a recently-acquired Allen Iverson. Smith called Denver home for five seasons before taking his talents to the New York Knicks.
It was there that he played some of the best basketball of his career, including a 2012-13 season where he averaged 18 points per game and won the league’s 6th Man of the Year Award.
Playing with the Champions
Two years later, he was on the move, yet again. This time, Smith found himself playing alongside LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here, he proved to be exactly what the Cavaliers needed as a fourth option. With James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love demanding attention on defense, Smith was shooting some of the best percentages of his career.
Smith was a valuable contributor to the Cavaliers’ four-year run in the Finals, including the 2016 run that saw them crowned as NBA Champions. Around James’ last year, however, Smith began to struggle.
By last season, he was shooting 30-percent from behind the arc and 34-percent from the field. These were the worst percentages that he’s had since he was a rookie, and this year he has not had a chance to shoot himself out of it. The Cavs waived him in the offseason.
J.R. Smith’s concerns
On the court, Smith has always been a concerning player for the teams he played for. He can catch fire and drain threes automatically, but if he is cold his value goes way down.
Furthermore, Smith has a knack for making boneheaded plays, none more notable than a 2018 Finals game when instead of initiating a play, Smith held onto the ball, much to the chagrin of James.
Off the court, there are similar concerns. Smith, especially in his younger days, made no attempts to hide his love for going to the club and even credited some long nights partying with poor play the next day. When things are going his way, he is a great teammate, but when things sour there are always rumblings of what is happening with him behind the scenes.
At 34 years old, Smith is past his prime and coming off of some of the worst basketball in his career.
Will he get a chance?
Smith got a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers alongside another loose cannon, Dion Waiters. The Lakers eventually went with Waiters. Smith, however, is not giving up hope. He has expressed interest in returning to the league, but if he is going to play mediocre basketball and prove to be a nuisance off the court, this could be the last we see of him.
Smith has options if he doesn’t get another chance, however. He could try to play overseas again, as he did during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
Furthermore, Ice Cube’s Big 3 league has found a niche as the home for recently retired players and those who are looking for another shot at NBA glory. Whatever happens, Smith is going to have to impress to return to the NBA. If he doesn’t, his memorable career has likely come to an end.