The Cleveland Cavaliers have been taking a flamethrower to everything about the first half of this season. Koby Altman did his part by exiling almost every role player brought in his summer, and with renewed enthusiasm, the holdovers all seem to be returning to form.
This season has been a tough one for Smith. In Dave McMenamin’s recent feature on ESPN, he outlined the journey he has gone through.
“JR’s done a lot for us,” Lue said Monday. “If it wasn’t for JR in ‘16 making those eight straight points coming out in the third quarter, we don’t win the championship. People saying, ‘Quit on JR, give up on JR.’ It’s not right. And he gives us effort and energy every night. Sometimes your shot is going to come and go, that’s just part of the game. For the most part, his effort is there every night. That’s why I wanted to stick with JR and I don’t want to lose JR. Make sure [to] keep him in good spirits, going in the right direction. He’s big for us. When he’s making shots, when he’s being aggressive, our team is a whole different team.”
The turning point for Smith this season was apparently when he heard his name being included in trade rumors:
“It was, ‘You know what? The hell with it. If I’m going to get traded, I’m just going to go out playing the way I know how to play,’” Smith told ESPN.
The fearless approach for Smith has resulted in a return to form recently. Smith is averaging 11.4 points per game on 47.7 percent shooting from the floor and 45.2 percent from deep over his last ten games.
Smith has played well alongside LeBron James throughout his time with the team. So as long as he continues to knock down looks, it’s probably a good idea to keep him in a role that he’s most comfortable in.
While Hood is probably the better player and certainly has more upside, he also is used to coming off the bench. The Cavs bench is suddenly young and very athletic, and keeping that group together may help the team throw a change of pace at the opposition.
There will be staggering of lineups, but a return to form from both Smith and Tristan Thompson would make the Cavs far more formidable than they already appear.