• Ziad Aziz

J.R. “SMH” Smith: 5 Reasons He Remains Unsigned

*Photo via Getty Images

It looks like teams are picking up different puppies from the Free Agent Shelter. Since opting out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, J.R. Smith has yet to find a new home. He’s athletic, and can provide depth, as well as an offensive boost to just about any roster. So, why are teams hesitant to bring on the former Sixth Man of the Year?

Is it because J.R. executes a policy of amity with pandas similar to Metta World Peace? Or is it due to his turtleneck sweater of tattoos? Some argue he desires to change professions entirely to become a plumber, and simply lay down pipe. No, these silly reasons are not the concerns of coaches and general managers. So, lets uncover and explore five primary possibilities to why J.R. Smith remains unsigned.


Many of J.R. Smith’s negative attributes are intertwined, causing a domino effect of concerning factors for coaches to consider. The concept of discipline stretches across each aspect of his play on the court, such as: defense, poor shot selection, and overall inconsistency. We’ll not only touch upon Smith’s blatant malpractices on the hardwood, but also look at his glaring issues off of it.

First, let's analyze Smith’s suspensions. In his career, J.R. Smith has been suspended: five games for drugs, three for malicious elbows, 10 for fighting, and three for detrimental conduct. For NBA executives, these disciplines wrap J.R. Smith with caution tape before any active negotiations.

Some of Smith’s fines include: Twitter comments, Twitter photos, yelling at Mark Cuban, flagrant fouls, flopping, and untying opponents’ shoes. Yes, if your memory is betraying you allow me to elaborate.

On January 8, 2014 the NBA fined J.R. Smith $50,000 for “reoccurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct” in the past two games. J.R. Smith a fully-grown man of 27, untied the shoes of then Dallas Maverick Shawn Marion, and attempted the same devious act with former Detroit Piston Greg Monroe the very next night. As a fan, you can’t help but chuckle at J.R.’s senseless and expensive antics, however it’s no laughing matter for NBA coaches.


Smith is a coveted offensive menace. He possesses the ability to hit acrobatic fade-away threes, and can create space off the dribble making for an effective mid range game. He’s also a threat stalking the baseline, looking to receive weak side alley-oops and dunking them with impressive authority.

However, to hear an announcer, or any basketball analyst praise Smith for his defense is as rare as Halley’s comet. During these past finals, Smith gave up a team high 52 points as a primary defender. And on 44 plays, he didn’t force a single turnover, and also committed 10 shooting fouls, twice as many as any other Cavalier.

While with the New York Knicks in 2014, J.R. came under fire for his poor defensive efforts. He responded to critics saying, “That’s really not my area of expertise. I’m more of a scoring – type player. I’ll leave it to those guys. Whatever they want to do, it’s okay with me. Just let me know.”

Essentially, Smith wasn’t too concerned about contributing to the defensive end of the floor, concluding that it was his teammates’ responsibilities. Laziness and an unwillingness to play sound defense is not even the most distressing aspect of the J.R. Smith dilemma. Coaches see Smith playing the “blame game”, accusing his teammates of the team’s collective shortcomings, which is a toxic element for any roster.

3.Poor Shot Selection

J.R. Smith has a forte for throwing up ill – advised shots. Too many times have we seen the first pass within the offensive set go to Smith on the wing as he bricks a contested three – pointer with 18 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Such shot selection disrupts the team’s offensive rhythm, and is the leading cause of hair loss among head coaches.

Smith also has a tendency to occasionally over dribble without a purpose during set isolations. It comes off as a poor imitation of the And One Street Ball legend Hot Sauce in order to create his own shot. This usually leads to Smith losing control of his ball handling, and in an act of desperation he scrambles to hoist up a leg flailing, half spinning, fade – away that culminates in an air ball.

However, miraculously, sometimes those dysfunctional shots find the bottom of the net. And Coaches and teammates have no choice but to shrug off the poorly executed, yet successful possession and move on. Despite the positive outcome, those types of offensive sequences are unsustainable and can lead to shooting droughts for J.R. Smith and ultimately affect his team’s overall performance.

*Photo via NY Post

4.Offensive Inconsistency

Taking bad shots tend to derive from a lack of discipline and patience on the court. Instead of letting the offensive sets develop, some players hastily force up shots in hopes of sparking some momentum. More often then not, these shots do not fall, and they lead to inconsistent streaks. And J.R. Smith has fallen victim to such ominous streaks.

Look no further than a couple of months ago at J.R. Smith’s performance in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, juxtaposed to the Finals battling the Golden State Warriors. It was like watching two different players.

In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Smith exploded for 28 points, shooting 10-16 from the floor, 8-12 being from beyond the arc. Now, contrasted with Game 1 of the Finals, Smith recorded a mere 9 points shooting just 3-13. Smith averaged a healthy 18 points per game during the Eastern Conference Finals, compared to 11.5 ppg in the high-pressured Finals.

With Kyrie Irving suffering a shattered kneecap in Game 1 of the Finals, the Cavs desperately needed someone to substitute for his lost production. Cleveland had hoped they’d find a worthy alternate in J.R. Smith given his numbers from the previous series, but his inconsistent play made him a virtual shadow on the court.


Ultimately the NBA is a business. J.R. Smith opted out of his contract with Cleveland, which would have paid him $6.4 million for this upcoming season. He and his agent had hoped to find a more lucrative offer, and start a bidding war with the Cavs.

Alas, that has not been the case thus far for J.R. Smith. It’s believed that he was seeking somewhere in the $ 7 million to $9 million range annually. There seem to be only three teams that have the cap space to give him a raise from last year: the Portland Trail Blazers ($16.4 million in cap space), Philadelphia 76ers ($16.3 million), and the Indiana Pacers ($11.5 million).

Nevertheless, Cleveland provides J.R. Smith the best opportunity at a championship run. So, he’s now currently back in negotiations with the Cavs to finalize a deal. Smith would be lucky if the original $6.4 million is still on the table, but unfortunately that’s highly unlikely.

Oh J.R.

Stats Courtesy of: Basketball Reference and NBA.com

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