A lot of fans knew who J.R. Smith was when the Cavs acquired him in January. A streaky shooter with the ability to shoot off of a catch or dribble and defend the ball incredibly well, Smith’s talents were never in question. His dedication, seriousness, and ferocity on the court this season with the Knicks are what led Cavs’ fans to believe that Smith is not the guy they needed to win a championship.
Fast forward to the middle of March, where fans around the world don’t think the Cavs can even survive without Smith in the lineup.
Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report spoke out about why he thinkgs it’s been so easy for LeBron to trust J.R. Smith so easily despite his troublesome past:
“It’s been very very easy. And I think one of the reasons LeBron trusts J.R. so much is that they had worked out in previous summers and LeBron feels like he understands J.R. better than a lot of other people do around the league.”
That understanding of one another’s game has led to incredible success for the Cavs since acquiring Smith in January.
“LeBron James wanted those trades that were made earlier in the season,” says Skolnick. “Dion Waiters never really embraced being a catch-and-shoot guy. LeBron always feels like he plays better when he plays with guys who are comfortable filling that role. That’s the role that J.R. Smith has filled best over the course of his career.
“When the Cavaliers traded for those three players: Mozgov, Shumpert, and J.R. over the course of those two trades, J.R. was the afterthought, a piece that they had to take. They weren’t even sure they were going to keep him. They might have just waived him, but when he came to Cleveland’s facility, he bought into everything said. He wanted to be there. Once they got that assurance and LeBron got that assurance, it was pretty much all systems go from there.”
It’s clear that J.R. wasn’t a part of the big picture when he first arrived, but his game has helped open the floor up for the Cavs so much while also playing solid and consistent defense, he’s become an almost irreplaceable piece to their puzzle.