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J.R. Smith didn’t get traded and he will remain a member of the Cavaliers’ for the rest of the season. At least, he will when it comes to counting toward the salary cap.
That’s just fine with the Cavs.
Not only was there no trade, but the Cavs will not be offering Smith a contract buyout, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Instead, the Cavs will again attempt to trade Smith in the offseason. That’s when the guaranteed portion of his contract suddenly dwindles to $3.8 million.
This arrangement makes sense from a Cavs standpoint. If they try to add anyone else this season, it will merely be another young player for an audition. Smith’s massive salary hasn’t hindered that strategy all year and it sure won’t now. So no need for the Cavs to write a buyout check.
Everyone already knows Smith won’t return. What matters to the Cavs today is where they go from here. There are plenty of questions left to be answered between now and the draft in June.
Namely, where will they finish in the draft lottery? Who will make a case to be back next year, or get traded or waived? What about coach Larry Drew? Or even general manager Koby Altman? They too are under review.
Don’t misunderstand. No one is on the hot seat — yet. But after Altman acquired guard Brandon Knight and forward Marquese Chriss in deals before the deadline, the roster is basically set. For the rest of the season, change can only come via free agency, 10-day contracts or call-ups from the G-League.
There are still games to be played, but for a rebuilding team such as the Cavs, 2018-19 season is over and 2019-2020 has already begun.
The only thing that remains the same is Smith will still be on the roster, but until at least the offseason, won’t factor into any of it.