What was said to be a four-to-six week timetable for a return just became exponentially larger. The Cleveland Cavaliers, on Friday, announced they will be without shooting guard J.R. Smith for 12-to-14 weeks following surgery to repair a complex fracture in the veteran’s right thumb.
Smith was injured in the second-half of a back-to-back this week against the Milwaukee Bucks. He had missed time earlier in the month with a knee injury, and was shooting the ball well since his return, notching 23 points against the Memphis Grizzlies and 14 points (on 5-of-8 shooting) against the Los Angeles Lakers. When Smith went to the locker room on Wednesday, DeAndre Liggins started in his place in the second half and will likely split time with Iman Shumpert and Jordan McRae going forward.
Smith will be the third Cavalier to join the ranks of injured fully-guaranteed contracts as Mo Williams remains the 15th man and Chris Andersen recently tore his ACL in practice, ending his season. The team has long been looking for a reserve point guard, but was recently rumored to be looking at adding depth to the wing. In addition to having to play LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love more than preferred, how Cavs GM David Griffin approaches any near- or long-term improvements will have an inverse impact on the ability to improve another.
Smith, 31, is averaging 8.6 points per game, hitting 36.2 percent from three-point range. His return target estimates he will rejoin the team just weeks before the start of the NBA Playoffs.