KEY POINTS

  • JR Smith is set to join the Los Angeles Lakers in Orlando
  • The Lakers could exploit Smith's outside shooting, as well as his playoff experience
  • The familiarity between Smith and LeBron James will be pivotal for the Lakers' push for a deep postseason run

The Los Angeles Lakers have quickly found a replacement piece for Avery Bradley in the person of JR Smith. The veteran guard is said to be zeroing in on officially joining the purple and gold in the Orlando bubble where he is expected to become a “game-changer” in the team’s bid for the NBA Championship.

Days after Bradley’s decision to sit out the rest of the season due to concerns about his family’s health, the Lakers immediately picked up the phone and called Smith - a long-time teammate of LeBron James in Cleveland.

Coach Frank Vogel could be banking on the familiarity between the two, which has been seasoned by multiple Finals appearances in the past, including a successful campaign in 2016 when the Cavs came back from being down 3-1 to win the championship.

“Smith and James were teammates for three-and-a-half seasons in Cleveland, so they are familiar with each other. Including the playoffs, they have logged over 8,000 minutes together. With four trips to the Finals, Smith has (the) experience that many Lakers are lacking,” Mo Dakhil of Bleacher Report wrote.

“The Cavaliers had a positive net rating when James and Smith shared the floor together in three out of four regular seasons, with the highest being 13.6. In the playoffs of their championship season, the Cavs were a plus-12.6 with both playing.”

Save for a handful of bonehead plays in the biggest basketball stage, Smith had actually been a reliable role player overall. His biggest arsenal is perhaps his outside shooting – something that the Lakers could exploit on with James and Anthony Davis doing most of their damage inside.

“Smith's ability to hit different types of threes gives the Lakers more options in how they deploy him. As a catch-and-shoot player, he shot 40.9 percent from three in his time as James' teammate. The Lakers as a team shoot 37.7 percent on catch-and-shoot threes. Smith is always ready to let a three fly if he has enough space,” Dakhil added.

“In particular with how dominant James has been in the post, Smith's ability to relocate and make teams pay whenever they try to double James will carry a large value for the Lakers. Smith shoots 39.1 percent from three with four feet or more of space, which is better than the Lakers' 36.3 percent. Leaving Smith to double James is a risk that in the past has hurt more often than not.”

Smith providing another offensive threat for the Lakers is definitely a welcome addition to the team. But the reward is attached to the known risk that the 34-year-old can sometimes have his head out of the game.

By being away from competitive basketball for nearly two years now, Smith is expected to be rusty, and thus still has to earn his spot in the rotation. But when an intense playoff game demands experience, James may want his reliable pal inside the court with him at crunch time.

JR Smith and LeBron James Dec 15, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and guard J.R. Smith (5) celebrate against the Boston Celtics during the second half at TD Garden. Photo: Reuters/Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports