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The Cavaliers are talking to teams about trading the contract of J.R. Smith and the Miami Heat are among the opponents who have expressed an interest.
Does that mean a trade is definite? Probably not. But some interest in Smith’s deal beats no interest — and Cavs general manager Koby Altman admitted when the regular season ended in April he had already spoken to one team.
Smith was sent home in November but Altman believes Smith’s contract can still bring back value. Namely, a first-round draft pick. In order for that to happen, the Cavs would have to take back another lousy contract, but that’s OK. There are always buyout possibilities, and even if not, the draft pick would be the focus of any Smith trade.
According to Amico Hoops sources, if the Cavs do receive a first-rounder in a Smith trade, it wouldn’t necessarily be this year and it could even be lottery-protected.
As for the Heat, about all we know for certain is they are like most teams — and have a crummy contract or two (Ryan Anderson, anyone?) that they would like to shed.
Altman made a similar deal just this past season, when he took back the contract of Brandon Knight from the Houston Rockets, in a three-team trade also involving the Sacramento Kings. Along with Knight and Marquese Chriss, the Cavs also received the Rockets’ first-round pick (No. 26 overall).
But back to Smith.
While he may not be considered an important part of a rotation any longer, his contract does come off the books at the end of next season, and along with that, only about $4 million is guaranteed.
One opposing general manager told Amico Hoops in April his team could have an interest in Smith’s contract, though the GM had yet to speak to Altman about a deal.
“We will wait a little closer to the draft to call,” the GM said. “We need to see how a few things shake out from our end first. I don’t want to say much more than that. … I’m sure other teams could have a use for that contract as well.”
Smith is a 6-foot-6 and turns 34 before the start of next season. He averaged 6.7 points on just 34 percent shooting in 11 games this season.
Along with the Heat, the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs may have an interest in Smith’s contract as the draft approaches. The Celtics have three first-round picks and don’t really want to use them for anything more than a trade for immediate help. The San Antonio Spurs have two first-rounders and the same applies to them.
Basically, the last thing most playoff teams want is to tie up roster spots with late first-round picks on guaranteed salaries. Not if the alternative is shedding salaries and bringing in veterans.
But the Cavs are fine with more first-rounders and apparently, intend to use Smith to try to land one.