After a mediocre start to the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have hit their stride, winning 16 of their last 18 games. Cleveland’s roster needed some major repairs, and they were able to mend things by trading for a rim protector in Timofey Mozgov and some wing defense and shooting in Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith.
Since being acquired by the Cavs, Smith has assumed the role of starting shooting guard and has performed pretty well in that position. Smith’s numbers aren’t astounding (13 points per game on 42% FG and 36% from three,) but what’s been most impressive is his willingness to play focused basketball.
Not only is Smith exerting maximum effort, but he’s also playing a smarter brand of ball. Smith’s rejuvenation, paired with their roster improvements, has Cleveland looking like a legitmate title contender and head coach David Blatt couldn’t be any happier. Here’s more from Steve Popper of NorthJersey.com:
“I really can’t comment on anything in the past, but I can tell you one thing: J.R. Smith has been a dream for us, as a team and for me personally,” said Cavaliers rookie coach David Blatt. “I love the guy. I love coaching him. He comes to work every single day. He’s a great teammate. He’s playing both ends of the court for us consistently.
“He’s one of the main reasons for our turnaround, together with Iman, who simply started later because of the injury. Those guys, honestly, they’ve been a godsend. They really have. They turned the team around.”
Smith accredits his improved play to the lack of nightlife in Cleveland, but I attribute his resurgence to the leadership of LeBron James. James’ presence has definitely helped keep Smith in check, and as a result he’s become an integral part of a championship contending team. Smith, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2013, is definitely a talented player but in recent years his on-court abilities have taken a backseat to his off-court antics.
If Cleveland plans to capture a championship this year, Smith must continue to remain mum off the court and productive on it. So far, so good for the Cavs, who have a huge game against the Golden State Warriors this Thursday.