When it comes to the small forward position, there is no debate over who the starter will be. LeBron James will be the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers long after he is no longer the best player on the team. The fact that this team is a contender and capable of attracting and retaining talent is largely due to his presence on the team.
That being said, this years version of the Cavs should be much better suited to spell LeBron and help him stay fresh for the playoffs. One of the biggest differences this season will be the presence of Richard Jefferson who will be taking over for the retired Shawn Marion.
Jefferson, like Marion, is in the home stretch of his career. At 35 years old he is no longer the dynamic player that he was when he was younger, but at 42.6 percent from behind the arc last year he was one of the best shooters in the league. While the Cavs had Mike Miller last year to provide shooting off the bench, his mobility, or lack thereof, was a true hindrance to how productive he can be. While Jefferson isn't the high flyer he used to be, he still is able to move around on the court which is a significant upgrade from Miller. He's also a player that strays away from inefficient midrange shots, 48 percent of his shots came from behind the arc and 37 percent came from within five feet of the rim. For a player his age, he converted at a really respectable rate:
Having a competent backup along with additional depth with Mo Williams will help the Cavs rest LeBron more than they were able to last year by reducing the drop-off when he is off the court. Too frequently the Cavs were forced to keep the big three out there on the court together just to stay in games early in the season, with more functional role players it'll be easier to stagger the minutes of the stars.
Other options that will be available for the Cavs at small forward will likely include having either Iman Shumpert or J.R. Smith playing at small forward when Williams slides over to the shooting guard position. The Cavs used those two at small forward at various times throughout the post-season when the team was dealing with injuries, so I wouldn't be surprised to see David Blatt deploy them at times to spell LeBron.
Last year, LeBron played 36.1 minutes per game - the lowest per game average of his career. Moving forward, it's important that the Cavs continue to reduce that number and try to make those minutes less strenuous. As I said before, there's no debate on who the starter should be or anything like that at the small forward position, but what Jefferson is capable of providing and how creative Blatt can be in small ball lineups may go a long way to preserving LeBron for a postseason run and making sure he's capable of contributing at the level he's accustomed to.