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Counterpoint: The Cavs Should Stay Away from JR Smith

August 23, 2010
Yesterday, Brendan posted a really well-reasoned piece about why the Cavs should go after JR Smith if he is, indeed, available. A quick overview of his points:
  • Young, yet a 5 year veteran
  • Versatile scorer
  • Can score on the break
  • Friendly contract
Brendan also notes that Smith brings a lot of baggage with him, but that his output on the floor outweighs whatever else he drags through the door behind him.
OK, let me start by saying that I don’t think JR Smith is a bad guy. I don’t think he’s crazy. He’s got a few too many neck-tats for my liking, but that’s just because neck-tats tend to weird me out. I admire the guy for acknowledging his bad lifestyle choices in the past.
But here’s the thing: The Cavs are going through one hell of a transformational year. They lost a once-in-a-generation franchise player. And they had to deal with their own player baggage with the Delonte West episode all of last season. So Smith’s baggage, however well he’s dealing with it, is not for a team that’s trying to expel any bad mojo. The Cavs need to avoid all drama, and work with a clean slate.
JR’s also pretty notable for dropping 40 points in a game every now and then, which inevitably involves sinking a few ill-advised 3s. So here’s my next issue: yes he’s a versatile (and at times volume) scorer, but he’s a play-breaker and jacks up a ton of shots. Sometimes the team would score, but he would mess with the offensive flow. His career PER is 15, which is exactly average (he peaked 2 seasons ago with 18+, when the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals). And I know the situation would be different in Cleveland, since he would probably be the first option. But would that make him more or less efficient? Do we want another year of watching one guy dominate the ball the whole time? Fans were wary of it when LeBron did it, and he’s like 50x (rough estimate) better than JR.
Blogger extraordinaire Matt Moore said to me that the Cavs’ #1 priorities next year, if they are serious about rebuilding quickly (which they should be) is to make Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao look awesome enough to trade for some picks. Picks are about the only thing that have currency after the new CBA, and right now the Cavs have a ton for the future, but they need a few more if they are going to go the Seattle-OKC-rebuild-with-a-young-and-talented-core route. JR Smith, as Brendan noted, would become the #1 option and would take away attention from those other pieces. How much he’d do that is debatable, but he would definitely be the go-to scorer on the team.
Here’s my biggest problem with a guy like JR Smith coming to the team. And by “guy like” I mean a play-breaker. Mike Brown was fairly-or-unfairly criticized for his unimaginitive offense. I think he could be equally criticized for his inability to control when LeBron would break plays and work LeIso. A lot of times, it worked. But really, even if Mike Brown wanted to stop him, he would be fearing for his job. The point I’m trying to make is that the Cavs, with the Byron Scott hire and the team of young, versatile, and moldable athletes they’ve assembled so far are making a statement: Scott is in charge. There are leaders on the team, sure. But Scott is going to be the authority. And if you have a guy like JR who will break plays and undermine the coach, it will degrade Scott’s integrity in front of the rest of the players. And after all, that’s what did in Mike Brown. And that’s what did in Scott in New Orleans. If as a coach, your players don’t listen to you, you have no chance of reaching the goals you set for yourself as a team.
I know it would theoretically only be 1 year with JR, but that could be enough to ruin Scott’s hold over the youngsters on this team for good.
5 Comments leave one →
  1. jimkanicki permalink
    August 24, 2010 2:54 am

    maybe we bring back delonte and the neck tatts neutralize?

    seriously… the best thing we can hope is a real esprit-de-corps versus the (apparently) phony one we saw last year. it might work if the group isn’t ‘owned’ by one personality but instead is a true team.

    both delonte and smith can handle the run game byron is concocting.

    so i say go after jr swish AND delonte and put our (pretty decent) talent in the hands of a competent? good? maybe-great? coach and we can make some noise.

    i like it.

    • August 24, 2010 8:42 am

      should we bring in other previously-troubled players? the team could concoct a misfit identity with it. i kinda wanted the Browns to do this for the past few years: bring in every problem case in the league, adopt a badboy theme, and attract fans/media attention with villainy.

  2. Brett permalink
    August 24, 2010 9:43 am

    Once i saw you said JR will take away the attention for andy/mo/antawn i stopped reading…he will spread the floor and mo antawn and andy will be better

  3. Paul permalink
    August 24, 2010 11:29 am

    There’s absolutely no way that Smith comes here. I don’t think you touched on it, but Scott coached Smith in New Orleans when he was a rookie and second year player. He was the same kid there was he is now–talented, sometimes disinterested, not friends with the concept of maturity, etc. Scott dumped him for a reason to Chicago and then-coach Scott Skiles traded Smith away before he even played a game or had a press conference with them because of Smith’s reputation which has been consistent in Denver. I believe he was also involved in a traffic accident due to his bad driver that claimed the life of his friend.

    • August 24, 2010 11:39 am

      you’re right, he did coach him. totally forgot about that. and you are correct about the traffic accident; he served some time in prison last summer for it.

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