J.R. Smith wants off the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This isn’t a rumor. It isn’t speculation. It’s what Smith himself told reporters, per ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
Smith, unhappy with his playing time, was asked by a reporter Thursday if he hoped to be traded.
“Yeah,” Smith said. “They know. They don’t want me here, so they obviously know.”
Smith is out of the Cavaliers’ rotation following the exit of head coach Tyronn Lue. The team is leaning into a youth movement, and at 33, he doesn’t fit the bill for a rebuilding team.
As for whether the Cavaliers are actively trying or even can trade him, it’s tough to say. J.R. is making $14.7 million this season. No one wants to pay him that. But he’s only guaranteed around $3.9 million next year. A team looking to lop off long-term salary for the sake of cap relief will see value in that. The Cavaliers could then net a sweetener or two in exchange for their troubles.
Even then, though, it might make more sense for the Cavaliers to wait. Smith’s deal was signed before the new CBA took effect, so his full $15.7 million salary for next season will count towards all trades before it ever guarantees June 30. For other deals signed after the new CBA, such as George Hill’s, a players trade value after the season ends is only worth his guarantee for the following year.
Basically, then, trading J.R. now could leave the Cavaliers eating a higher salary before they have to. They might not care. If they’re committed to starting over and they’re getting enough incentives, they could opt to move Smith whenever. But this could also be a situation that drags out into the summer.