The Portland Trail Blazers need size, perimeter defense, and shot creation. J.R. Smith is the only player on the open market who fits the bill.
There aren’t a shortage of options on the open market, especially guys with championship experience. Smith went to four straight NBA Finals, winning an NBA title in 2016. Extra shot creation, perimeter defense, and size are all things this team needs on their bench unit.
Outside of Gary Trent Jr, they have no one on the bench unit to guard any wings of size when Trevor Ariza sits. Yes, Smith isn’t going to lock guys down, but what happens if you have to play the LA Clippers with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard?
Any wing player that gets signed won’t play significant minutes. But when the second unit is struggling to score, or if young guys like Anfernee Simons are struggling to create off the bench, then a heat up quick guy like Smith could work.
Smith is one of the most prolific three-point shooters in NBA history. He was also a better playoff shooter than he was in the regular season for the Cavaliers.
For the five seasons he was with the Cavaliers, he shot 38.1 percent from three in the regular season, come the playoffs that number moved to 40.6 percent.
Smith is 13th all-time in made three-pointers in the regular season, and amazingly, he is 4th all-time in made threes in the finals, also knocking these down at an excellent rate of 38.6 percent.
Smith is a good passer for a wing, and he doesn’t turn the ball over. Though he would mainly be a spot-up shooter these days, Smith was still a competent rebounder when he was in the league last. He has stayed in shape.
Fans use his blunder in the 2018 NBA finals in 2018 as a reason why he shouldn’t be signed. But he has a lot more big moments that counteract this bad one.
His experience on the biggest stage of all, combined with his pure shooting ability, is the main reason he would be an excellent fit for this team. The Blazers bench unit will be more robust with the return of Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic, but they still only have Trent Jr as a pure shooter on the bench. Being able to add a player of Smith’s ability, with his size at six-foot-six, would be a massive addition.
We shouldn’t write Smith off because of his past mistakes; we should look at him as maybe the best wing option available on the free-agent market.