Lakers finalizing deal to sign J.R. Smith as replacement player ahead of Orlando restart, per report

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Lakers Are Vegas Favorite To Win Title

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 J.R. Smith emerged as the front-runner to replace Bradley last week. Now, he and the Lakers are closing in on a deal to make him part of the roster heading to Orlando, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. While Smith has never played with the Lakers in the past, he does have experience playing alongside LeBron James in Cleveland, where he was relied upon as a spot-up shooter. The issue here, though, is that Smith hasn’t played since 2018, and 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. For the Lakers, with the No. 1 seed all but locked up at this point, 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.

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