When the Cavs made their midseason trades for Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert, Mozgov and Smith were the headliners. They filled the most immediate need for the Cavs in the areas of rim protection and long-range shooting. Smith was a former 6th Man of the Year and Mozgov had been a trade target in Cleveland for months. Through all of their success, though, it is now Shumpert who now has a chance to make perhaps the biggest name for himself in these playoffs, and in the first two games of the conference semifinals, Shumpert is making the most of his opportunity.

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The scouting report on Shumpert focused mainly on his perimeter defense, which the Cavs have also greatly needed. When J.R. Smith was suspended for two games by the NBA, much more than defense became needed from Shumpert in order for the Cavs to function offensively. To say the least, Shumpert has delivered. In the two games that he has started, he has scored 22 and 15 points respectively, and nailed four 3-point shots in each game. Not much more could have been expected from J.R. Smith if he were able to play.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Statistically, what Shumpert has given the team in these first two games against the Bulls is significantly better than what J.R. Smith averaged this season. His averages of 18 points, four rebounds and two steals are comparable to what All-Star Jimmy Butler has given to the Bulls all season long. To have the productivity of Butler seemingly nullified by the play of Shumpert is not something that any Cavs fan expected, but that all are thrilled to have. Throw in his 47% clip from the 3-point line, and his stats have looked somewhat like the season stats of Klay Thompson. Shumpert’s game does not resemble Smith’s or Thompson’s, but his productivity so far against the Bulls has been comparable.

Shumpert has given the Cavs the same defense and energy that he has since his move to Cleveland, but in the playoffs every part of the game is magnified. For all of the ways that we miss Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, Shumpert is doing his best to fill in. He has effectively spaced the floor and made open 3s. He has moved well without the ball and finished at the rim He has willingly and eagerly covered a former MVP point guard and this year’s supposed Most Improved Player, as well as any other Bulls player who might require his defensive attention.

Perhaps the best indication of Shumpert’s success in the playoffs thus far was what happened to the Cavs when he went out of game two against Chicago with a groin injury. Watching the game, it felt as though the team was deflated immediately. Shumpert had been playing as hard and as well as anyone on the team, and they knew he would be missed. The Bulls ripped off 14 straight points to show signs of a comeback soon after the injury. Fortunately, the Cavs held on comfortably and Shumpert came back into the game. Even with the return of J.R. Smith in game three, the Cavs will need the productivity that Shumpert has given them. Here’s to hoping that groin injury isn’t another gap for the Cavs to fill in.