An injury to J.R. Smith may have larger implications than just another day-to-day injury.
With Smith expected to miss tonight’s game vs. the Knicks and be day-to-day moving forward, it has created a new problem for the Cavs. Smith could very well return on Friday against the Heat, but he could also sit out a couple games and want to fully heal the knee that was ailing him for over a week.
The Cavs currently own the best record in the Eastern Conference at 14-5, but their lineups have been anything from ideal. Their rotations have been all over the place due to head coach Tyronn Lue’s need to compensate for the lack of a true backup point guard. This has already seen as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are spending more time on the court than originally planned, which will be an issue moving forward. The Cavs are aiming to decrease the minutes of their starters, not increase them.
With Smith already missing time this campaign through ongoing knee soreness as well as an ankle injury, it has already seen Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert and Mike Dunleavy start in place for him, all which have not worked out quite the way the Cavs had hoped.
The Cavs depth has also been tested, and although DeAndre Liggins did a superb job in Smith’s absence last night, it less than ideal for a deep reserve player to be asked to play meaningful starters’ minutes when a set rotation and rhythm should begin to be established. Cavs players should know and expect how many minutes they’re going to play on a nightly basis, not going into the game guessing on how much they’ll need to contribute. To their credit, every player on the roster stays ready, but not having set rotations and lineups in place is a negative for the Cavaliers at the moment.
According to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, GM David Grffin could look to make a move so Ty Lue doesn’t ahve to keep trying to find the best backup unit without a point guard. The need for a true back-up point guard has been an ongoing concern throughout the year after veteran Mo Williams retired in the off season, and the Cavs must look long term before the trade deadline.
Having to fill Smith’s spot among the starters could further complicate the issue and, depending on the severity of Smith’s injury, cause general manager David Griffin to contemplate multiple roster moves.
They Cavs will no doubt explore their options, as Smith is listed as day-to-day, but could end up missing a chunk of time. He has already been ruled out of the trip to New York.