Sans the offseason drama, personal issues, and injuries, J.R. Smith is poised to bounce back
Not much has happened for the Cleveland Cavaliers this offseason. While other title contenders have shored up their rosters with key acquisitions, the best the Cavs have done so far was sign a decomposing Jose Calderon, an NBA vagabond who just can’t find a permanent home in Jeff Green, and an unproven youngster in Cedi Osman.
Green and Osman look like decent additions at best but those moves are not at the same level as the Houston Rockets trading for Chris Paul, the Boston Celtics winning the Gordon Hayward sweepstakes, or the Minnesota Timberwolves pulling out all stops to become the most Chicago Bulls team outside of the actual Bulls. Without a proper general manager, swinging badly on free agents, and a tight salary cap to work with in the first place, the Cavs’ chances of making a trip back to the NBA championship round seems to lie heavily on the shoulders of the holdovers — a group that includes J.R. Smith. And if so, the Cavaliers better hope that Smith finds a way to be raise his game next season.
Smith, being considered an integral championship run piece, used to sound like a joke but there aren’t as many folks who’ll laugh at that today with the way he has blended with the Cavs. After a disappointing loss to the Golden State Warriors in the last championship series, Smith appears to be motivated to help the Cavs bounce back and reclaim the throne they lost to Kevin Durant and crew. He even had an encouraging message to Cavs fans during an appearance on Uninterrupted.
— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) July 14, 2017
It can’t be all talk for Smith. He underwhelmed last season in which he averaged just 8.6 points per game, his lowest since the 2005-06 season. He was sidelined for a big chunk of the campaign due to a host of injuries, playing in just 41 regular games. He did conclude the season, however, by putting up a shooting clinic, drilling seven treys for 25 points in the Cavs’ Game 5 loss that handed the Warriors the title.
It’s no secret what Smith’s role is to the team. As it has been for most of his career, he’s a valuable option on offense with his ability to create shots of his own. His jumper remains dependable as ever with 93 percent of his shots and 7.5 of his points per game coming from jump shots last season. He still takes plenty of ill-advised attempts with 34 percent of them in the 2015-16 campaign happening when there were still at least 16 seconds on the shot clock. But that’s just quintessential J.R. Smith and it’s clear that the Cavs are willingly taking the good with the bad.
Assuming he’s 100 percent healthy entering the new season this October, a swift turnaround could be reasonably expected of Smith. For one, the sweet-shooting guard doesn’t have any contract fanfare to tackle unlike last year, when it took weeks before Smith and the Cavs managed to agree on a four-year $57 million deal. Financially secured and knowing that his youngest child, Dakota, is now out of the woods, Smith’s runway is free of any obstacles that could hinder him from taking off.