The Cleveland Cavaliers and JR Smith have not yet reached a contract agreement this summer and the free agent guard is likely to return to the Cavs, but as the days go by without a deal getting done, teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers or another club could step up and make a deal with Smith.
The Cavaliers have been interested in signing back Smith this offseason and it comes after the guard decided to opt out of his contract. The Cavs reportedly were not happy with that move and that is one reason why it has taken so long to get a deal done. The team has spent quite a bit already this offseason with Kevin Love, LeBron James, James Jones, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova all returning, while Tristan Thompson remains unsigned.
The Cavs added Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson to the roster and now Thompson and Smith are last two pieces left from the team on the market from last season. Chris Haynes at Cleveland.com reports that Thompson is considering signing the qualifying offer if the two sides can't agree on a contract extension. Reports have the two sides continuing to talk, but that a deal is "not close" at this time. What happens with Thompson could affect Smith, but Smith is easier to sign since it likely will be a one-year deal.
Smith likely will have to take less money than the $6 million he would have made for sticking with his contract and Smith said to the Pacific Daily News that he wants to be on a team where he can "make a difference." The Cavaliers roster is getting filled up, but he still would be a key part of the team if he returns to Cleveland. LeBron James has mentioned both Smith and Thompson by name in interviews over the summer and he likely wants both players to return.
Thompson reportedly is considering signing the qualifying offer over a contract extension if the Cavs do not meet his price, according to Brian Windhorst at ESPN. Rich Paul, Thompson's agent, confirmed that story, but Windhorst writes that it could be more about creating leverage, as the report says Thompson will leave Cleveland if he ends up on the qualifying deal. Smith can factor into all of this depending on how much he gets and as the summer wears on, it likely means that he will have to take less money than he originally wanted on the market.
Smith was acquired in a trade last season with the Knicks and he made a solid impact for the Cavaliers down the stretch. Last season Smith averaged 12.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and three assists per game and he played in 70 between the Knicks and the Cavs. Sam Amico at Fox Sports reported last week that the Cavaliers are "still interested" in bringing back Smith, but clearly not much has happened on that front this month.
The Cavaliers could potentially look at a Jamal Crawford trade if Smith doesn't sign, as the team has a trade exception they can use. According to Chris Haynes at Clevelamnd.com, Crawford would be open to playing for the Cavs if he was traded from the Clippers.