The Philadelphia 76ers should avoid J.R. Smith at all costs

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

While he conceivably fits the bill for what the team needs coming off the bench, the Philadelphia 76ers should avoid signing J.R. Smith at all costs.

The Philadelphia 76ers‘ roster is pretty much set for the 2019-20 NBA season.

With a super-sized starting 5 featuring Ben Simmons at the point, Josh Richardson at two-guard, Tobias Harris at small forward, Al Horford at the four, and ‘The Process’ himself Joel Embiid in the paint as well as key reserves both new and old like Mike Scott, James Ennis, Zhaire Smith, and Matisse Thybulle coming off the bench, Elton Brand has more or less built a team that can compete for championships right away.

However, in the eyes of many outside observers, the team is still missing one crucial piece to put them over the top: a knock-down outside shooter.

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Sure, the team still has the dynamic duo of Scott and Harris, who both shot over 40 percent after being acquired at the deadline from the Los Angeles Clippers, but they both play the same position, and will seldom be on the court at the same time.

No, if Philly is going to compete for the top seed in the Eastern Conference moving forward, they’re going to need a guard who can knock down outside shots at a near-elite clip – bonus points if he can actually play some defense.

That player is not, and should not be J.R. Smith.

After finally being released from his Cleveland Cavaliers contract after spending virtually the entire 2018-19 season in NBA purgatory away from his club, Smith is now free to sign with any team he chooses in an attempt to latch on with another championship contender in the twilight years of his, um, interesting NBA career.

Smith has already had conversations with the Milwaukee Bucks but appears to be a long shot to latch on with the Los Angeles Lakers, despite the team being initially viewed as his most logical destination.

I guess after the 2018 Finals, LeBron James has had enough.

Sure, on paper Smith makes some sense as a shooter coming off the bench for the Sixers, but numbers alone don’t tell the whole story, especially when said numbers aren’t all that impressive to begin with.

Over his last 91 NBA games, 11 in 2018 and 80 the previous season, Smith has only hit 155 of his 420 attempts from three-point range, good for a slightly above average 36.9 percent clip. While that’s not a terrible average and isn’t too far off his 37.3 career 3 point shooting percentage, it’s a far cry from the league’s premier wing sharpshooters – who typically shoot above 40 percent.

Furthermore, Smith has never earned a positive defensive Real Plus-Minus stat since it was established all the way back in 2013, earning a -1.79 DRPM in 2018-19, a -2.23 in 2017-18, a -0.98 in 2016-17, a -1.22 in 2015-16, a -0.54 in 2014-15, and a -0.75 in 2013-14.

Again, those numbers aren’t terrible for a veteran minimum shooting guard pick up in late-July/early-August, but when you add in Smith’s shall we say unique personality, it’s hard to find a logical reason Philly would give the 15-year vet a call.

From his now-infamous finals fiasco, to a slew of other interesting interactions like tattooing the Supreme logo on his arm, or not wearing a shirt for weeks after winning the 2016 championship, Smith might not be the best addition to Philly’s culture building process moving forward.

To paraphrase the words of Steve Kerr, as per Zach Lowe on a recent episode of his podcast, a team can have one knucklehead on their roster and still play well, but if you have two, they might hang out.

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So yeah, I’m not sure what else to say on the subject. Despite having Elton Brand-approved size at 6-foot-6 and being a competent outside shooter, J.R. Smith just isn’t a fit with the Philadelphia 76ers and even kicking the tire on the soon-to-be 34-year-old on a one-year minimum contract seems like a desperate play.