With less than a week until his salary for the 2019-20 season becomes fully guaranteed, the Cleveland Cavaliers have just days left to trade J.R. Smith.
And while it remains to be seen whether or not the Cavs will be able to strike a deal to trade the 16th-year swingman, what is certain is that Smith will hit the free agent market next week -- whether he's released by Cleveland or another team.
And when he does, it appears Smith will likely be joining a familiar face on the West Coast.
"When he's waived, it is my belief he will end up with the Lakers," Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said of Smith on Tuesday.
That Smith would reunite with former Cavs teammate LeBron James hardly comes as a surprise given that the 4-time MVP helped revitalize his career after Cleveland acquired Smith from the New York Knicks in 2015. Over the course of the next four seasons, Smith helped spread the floor for James in the Cavs' starting lineup throughout Cleveland's four straight runs to the NBA Finals, including the team's championship season in 2016.
But following James' departure for the Lakers last summer, the stability Smith had established in Cleveland quickly fell apart. After bouncing in and out of the rotation and publicly asking for a trade, Smith and the Cavs mutually parted ways last November, as the former Sixth Man of the Year proceeded to sit out the remainder of the season.
Given the non-guaranteed nature of his contract, Smith figured to serve as a valuable trade chip this offseason for any team looking to shed salary. Speaking to reporters after the NBA Draft last week, however, Cleveland general manager Koby Altman admitted the Cavs may very well wind up being the team to waive Smith -- a move that would save them $11 million and potentially move their payroll under the luxury tax line.
"We're definitely going to investigate what we can do there. There's a pain threshold of doing it," Altman said. "Going into the [luxury] tax -- what we have to do in terms of taking back money and then the rest of the NBA knowing we're in the tax and then my job would be to get us out of the tax. Is there enough value there to do that?"
Although the 33-year-old Smith may be on his last legs in the NBA, he could provide value to Los Angeles on a veteran's minimum deal. After agreeing to a trade to acquire All-Star big man Anthony Davis last week, the Lakers will be looking for experienced players to surround him and James with -- a role Smith is already plenty experienced at playing.