As the NBA season presses on, quite a few teams around the association are dealing with injuries, including the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

For months now, the 42-20 Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers have been without the services of J.R. Smith, who suffered a fractured right thumb in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks in December. Initial reports stated that Smith would be out for at least three months. Now, it seems he is slightly ahead of schedule with regards to his return.

According to the Cavs, Smith has been cleared for contact practice drills and was at shootaround on Wednesday. Smith’s status for Thursday’s road game against the Detroit Pistons has officially been upgraded to questionable. If J.R. cannot go against the Pistons, his next opportunities to play would be Saturday against the Orlando Magic or Sunday against the Houston Rockets.

There is no doubt, when Smith is able to return to action for the Cavaliers, his impact will be profound. Before his injury, Smith was averaging 8.6 points, 2.4 made three-pointers, and 1.2 steals per game on 33.7 percent shooting. He is an outside shooting threat which coupled with his defense, makes him an important part of Cleveland’s rotation. Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, and DeAndre Liggins have done a fine job filling the void but Smith’s defensive tenacity and ability to shoot the three will be key for Cleveland’s success in the postseason.

As always, keep your browsers locked on Cavs Nation for more updates as they become available.