The Cavaliers' title was validation for the much-maligned J.R. Smith, whose immaturity on and off the court made him a target for critics over the years.
The Cavaliers' title was validation for the much-maligned Smith, whose immaturity on and off the court made him a target for critics over the years. To secure his first ring and become one of the world’s most famous shirtless men, Smith (12.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.7 APG) had to evolve from a streaky freelance scorer early in his career into a narrower 3-and-D role. Playing alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Smith has virtually abandoned his off-the-dribble game, morphing instead into a valuable floor-spacing shooter. While his usage rate, free throw rate, assist rate and dunks all fell to career lows, Smith knocked down a career-high 204 three-pointers at a blistering 40% clip. Defensively, the 31-year-old Smith is still quick enough to put effective pressure defense on the perimeter, and he ramped up his effort level as the Cavaliers closed in on the title. Getting the best out of Smith requires the right circumstances—no bright lights, a veteran-dominated locker room, stars to create clean looks for him—but he proved last season that he could play big, valuable minutes on a team that won it all. (Last year: Not ranked)
+ His +166 raw plus-minus in 21 playoff games trailed only LeBron James (+209)
+ James credits him with an assist on “The Block” because he got back in transition
– He has attempted fewer FTs in the last three years combined than he did in 2013
– As of press time, he had yet to come to terms on a new contract with the Cavaliers