During the regular season, teams have the breathing room to take risks. Cleveland is going ahead and taking one of those risks tonight. With J.R. Smith side-lined after an injury that occurred against the Toronto Raptors, Cleveland is turning to an unlikely candidate to fill his place.
DeAndre Liggins has only ever notched one career NBA start during his time in the league, a throwaway game towards the end of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2012-2013 campaign. Tyronn Lue, however, looks to increase that number, as he named Liggins tonight’s starting shooting guard over veteran Iman Shumpert.
Liggins has made a name for himself on the defensive end of the ball. Named last years, NBA Development League Defensive Player of the Year, Liggin’s camp invite came off of a successful season playing for the Miami Heat affiliate, Souix Falls Skyforce. Despite only putting up five points in the contest against the Toronto Raptors, Liggins spent 21 minutes on the court, primarily (and successfully) guarding Toronto’s Kyle Lowry.
In his pregame press conference, Lue elaborated on his decision:
“I think high energy from a guy, it’s contagious,” Lue said. “Guys tend to play harder, seeing him flying around the floor, picking up full court, that’s the juice and spunk we need.”
This shouldn’t be seen as a snub to Iman Shumpert. While Shumpert was acquired from the New York Knicks with the intentions of playing him as the starting shooting guard, Shumpert has carved out a role for himself as a defensive hustle player. Because of this consistent pressure, and lack of a true backup point guard, Shumpert has seen his role change to become Lue’s go to point guard off the bench.
Cleveland plays The New York Knicks in New York tonight. New York is coming off a win last night over the struggling Miami Heat, while Cleveland pulled a close victory over the Toronto Raptors last Monday night. Tipoff starts at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific.