J.R. Smith is expected to be sidelined following right thumb surgery for twice as long as the Cleveland Cavaliers originally expected, fueling speculation that the defending NBA champs might be desperately in the market for veteran backcourt help.
The veteran Smith went under the knife at the Crystal Clinic Orthopedic Center early Friday to repair a complex fracture, and after the procedure, his team of doctors pegged his recovery at 12 to 14 weeks. The Cavs were under the impression that he would only be out around a month.
That leaves the Cavs without their three-point marksmen until at least late March, or just weeks before the start of the postseason.
DeAndre Liggins is likely to assume Smith’s starting role, with the versatile Iman Shumpert remaining in his role as sixth man.
But with no telling what form Smith will be in when he is finally able to return, the Cavs appear to have admitted to themselves they may need more if they truly hope to fight off the likes of Golden State and their big four of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
Beyond that, there’s the matter of staying out front of the Raptors in the Eastern Conference, who through the first two months of the season trail the champs by just one-and-a-half games for best record and top-seed in the division.
Topping the list of those rumored to possibly be on the Cavs wish list as Smith replacements are vets Deron Williams, Nick Young, and Monta Ellis.
In Dallas, Williams is averaging 14 points and a team-high seven assists, while Young and Ellis are averaging 14 and 10 points, respectively, in Los Angeles and Indiana.
While the one-time All-Star Williams has always been a point guard, the Cavs’ thinking appears to be that they can move the still-rising Kyrie Irving to shooting guard without having him skipping a beat.
Cleveland could also have varying degrees of interest in veterans Will Barton, Brandon Knight, and Tony Allen, though in the defensive-minded, hard-nosed Allen they would be getting all the same strengths the younger Liggins already brings to the table.
Though Barton is averaging near career-highs of 14 points and three assists for the Nuggets, he could soon find himself squeezed for minutes with the emergence of younger studs Gary Harris (13 points, three assists, three rebounds) and Jamal Murray (nine points, three rebounds).
A couple of longshots who have been bandied about as possible additions are veteran Mario Chalmers and former first-round bust Jimmer Fredette.
Chalmers has a history with James that goes back to their days in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The veteran guard is still recovering from a torn Achilles he suffered late last season that led to him being cut in Memphis, but is said to be close to being granted a full medical clearance.
The 27-year-old Fredette is now starring in China with the Shanghai Sharks, where he is putting up an eye-popping average of 39 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and two steals a game on 50 percent shooting overall, and 41 percent from long distance.
After starring at BYU, Fredette averaged just six points over his first five NBA seasons.
Through 21 games, the 31-year-old Smith is averaging nine points and two rebounds for the Cavs, while shooting just 36 percent in three-pointers, the fifth lowest percentage in that area over his 14-year career.
Over the last few seasons, Smith has also morphed into somewhat of a defensive stopper for the Cavs, often guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
[Featured Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]