Cavs fail to trade Smith, but hope looms ahead of free agency

Veteran shooting guard J.R. Smith and the Cavaliers have finally parted ways.

Within the next 10 days, J.R. Smith will be somewhere other than a member of the Cavaliers’ roster.

Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman tried to trade Smith, and from the sounds of things, came close a couple of times. But the Cavs didn’t want to take back a horrible contract, Smith’s horrible contract be darned.

Actually, Smith’s contract isn’t that awful when you think about it. Yes, it calls for him to earn around $15 million next season. But Smith’s contract dwindles down to $3.87 million if he’s released before June 30.

So the Cavs have one of two options. Trade Smith for a highly paid veteran and young player who might actually be a part of things moving forward … or waive Smith and pay him the roughly $4 million themselves.

They are considering both possibilities.

Smith, of course, was sent away in November after no longer being a fit. And that’s the nice version. The honest version is Smith wasn’t exactly endearing himself to the front office or coaching staff or young players, or accepting the role of veteran leader the team hoped he’d adapt.

The Cavs spoke to the Miami Heat and several other teams prior to Thursday’s draft, but the Cavs often felt like they wouldn’t be getting enough and opponents didn’t want to give up too much.

So with free agency looming, the Cavs will try again. The good news for the Cavs is, teams that are looking to shed salary to sign free agents (and there are plenty) will find Smith’s expiring deal to be particularly valuable. The Cavs could almost make a better Smith trade now than they could on draft night.

The better news is, either way, Smith’s contract is about to come off the books — either all the way or most of the way. For the Cavs, one or the other, it’s a victory.