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Column: Celtics shouldn’t even think of signing J.R. Smith

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith (5) goes against Boston Celtics' Isaiah Thomas in a first round NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 19, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
AP Photo/Mark Duncan

The Boston Celtics are apparently interested in free agent J.R. Smith, a rumor that just does not add up for so many reasons.

First of all, the Celtics currently have 16 players under guaranteed contract, and they are having a hard enough time deciding who will earn the final spot on the roster.

In order to make room for Smith, Boston would have to finagle a little bit and clear two roster slots, and the C’s don’t have enough money to make a competitive offer anyway unless they clear a huge chunk of salary. The original rumor states that Boston has $9 million to offer and Smith is looking for $15 million annually, but in reality the Celtics are currently hovering right around the salary cap line.

So, right off the bat, you can see things don’t really compute. Unless the Celtics are planning on making a trade (or multiple?) to accommodate Smith, this seems like a whole lot of smoke without any fire.

But, for the sake of it, let’s just continue with this rumor. Let’s operate under the assumption that Boston is genuinely interested in Smith and wants to make a move to acquire him.

The primary question isn’t even how. It’s why? Why would the C’s want J.R. Smith? Generally, when a player is on the free-agent market two weeks before the season starts, there is a reason for it.

Either a.) he is drastically overvaluing himself, or b.) he isn’t very good.

In the case of Smith, it’s a combination of both.

On top of that, Smith is not exactly the best character guy in the league. This is a guy who is well known for earning technical fouls in big moments of games. This is also a guy who is well known for cheap shots, and the Celtics should know this more than anyone. Just ask Jae Crowder and former Celtic Jason Terry about that.

But let’s forget about Smith’s questionable — to say the least — antics for a second and focus on his actual game.

Is he really any good at all?

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith greets fans before the start of a parade celebrating the Cleveland Cavaliers' NBA Championship in downtown Cleveland Wednesday, June 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

What we do know about Smith is that he is a very streaky shooter. He can go 0-of-9 from three-point range in the first half of a game and then come out and hit five straight triples to start the third quarter.

So, while Smith is a viable threat from deep, his inability to knock the long ball down consistently is — and always has been — a concern. Teams have been willing to overlook that inconsistency and trade it off for the occasional outburst, and for a club like the Cleveland Cavaliers that features LeBron James, that’s fine. James opens up the floor for everybody, and Smith will definitely get more clean looks from the perimeter alongside of LeBron than he would alongside of almost any other player in the NBA.

But can the Celtics live with that?

Well, as solid of a team as Boston is, it does not exactly have a LeBron James on its roster, so I’m not sure the C’s can be okay with Smith firing away.

Plus, didn’t the Celtics already sign Gerald Green, who is essentially the same exact type of player as Smith? They’re both streaky perimeter shooters, they’re both very athletic, neither plays much defense and their basketball IQs are not what one would call elite. Why add Smith for that price when you just signed Green for basically nothing?

It doesn’t make much sense.

Furthermore, is Boston not loaded with guards and wings? Isaiah Thomas. Avery Bradley. Marcus Smart. Terry Rozier. Jaylen Brown. R.J. Hunter. Gerald Green.

There already aren’t enough minutes to go around. Throwing Smith into the mix would complicate matters even more, and it would stunt the growth of the youngsters. We are already wondering what type of playing time would be available for Brown, and that’s without Smith.

I also briefly mentioned defense, but let’s delve a little deeper into it now. The C’s are a very good defensive team, and Smith would do nothing to improve them. As a matter of fact, he would probably make them worse. Smith is well known for missing rotations and simply falling asleep on the defensive end. He is also not much of a one-on-one stopper.

So, the Celtics would be adding a pretty poor defensive player into the mix, and a player who would be eating into the minutes of the good perimeter defenders they have.

Let’s recap.

Smith is an inconsistent shooter, a below-average defender, would be cutting into other players’ minutes and he is a bit of a headcase. Is that a player Boston should be willing to spend a solid chunk of money on?

No.

Again, it’s a relatively unrealistic scenario anyway, but even if it were realistic, it would be a bad idea.

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