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Has Iman Shumpert earned himself a permanent starting role?

Iman Shumpert, JR Smith

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a horror recent stretch by their standards, facing different types of adversity at every turn of a corner. The first shot taken by the Cavaliers was the loss of their starting shooting guard, J.R. Smith, who still has months to recover from his thumb surgery.

Slotting into the void left by J.R. Smith is the man with the hair, Iman Shumpert. ‘Shump’ is usually known for his defensive stopping skills off the bench, but has strived in his role as spot up three point bomber from corners.

In the last six games starting for the Cavaliers, Shumpert is averaging 14.1 points a night, showing a much improved three point touch. Adding to his offensive waves, Shumpert also adds the aforementioned ability to lock down an opponent from start to finish. So is this something Tyronn Lue and the Cavs will look to even with the eventual return of Smith?

“Everyone who plays with the starters plays well,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Having him in the starting lineup where we can slow him down and have him take his shots. He started the season shooting the ball great, and I thought in the second lineup, having him play the second point was asking him to do too much.”

“And now, he’s back in his comfort zone, where LeBron, Kyrie and Kevin can make those plays, and he can stand out here, shoot threes and guard the best perimeter guy. He’s comfortable in his role, and he’s been playing great.”

Coach Lue is spot on the money when he references Iman’s shooting touch. In his last six starts, the former New York Knick is shooting 57.4% from the field and a whopping 55.5% from deep, both of those stats are obviously a major step up from last season numbers.

Back in their New York days, Smith and Shumpert’s roles were reversed, it was Smith coming off the bench as the sixth man, while Shumpert reaped the rewards of starters minutes. If Coach Lue were to make the decision to promote ‘Shump’ on a full-time basis, he has the resume to prove his worth.

In his 144 Cavalier appearances, J.R. Smith averages 12.0 points a night while shooting 39% from deep. Statistically Shumpert makes a case in many less games, but with this decision Ty Lue also has rotations and lineups to consider.

With Smith in the starting lineup, he provides you with a lights out shooter, someone that is completely comfortable in his role. It also leaves the Cavaliers with Shumpert to come off the bench, a capable ball handler adept with running an offense when needed.

J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert

Jason Miller/Getty Images

With Shumpert in the starting lineup, the Cavaliers have dropped DeAndre Liggins to the second-team, helping bolster the defensive effort in a similar way. If Smith were to be eventually added to the second-team, that would give the Cavs two incredible three point bombers off the bench in J.R. and Kyle Korver.

When Smith does return from injury, he’s sure to be worked back into the rotation is spurts, rather than thrown back into his pre-injury minutes. Either way, we’ll see Shumpert in the starting five in the early stages of J.R’s return, allowing Smith to recover, and allowing Coach Lue to play around with lineups.

The transition from sixth man to starting five has done Shump’ the world of good, making a permanent move to the lineup with LeBron and company a real possibility. But the finality of the rotation will likely depend on the integration of Smith back in with the bench squad, and how his numbers fare.

Either way, the Cavs are desperate for the return of their injured sharp shooting off guard. With Smith back in the fold, all these possibilities will become reality and the pressure of scoring will be lifted from the rest of the team.

Get well soon J.R., we need you.

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