Since putting his shirt back on, J.R. Smith has not resigned with the Cavaliers. Could Mike Dunleavy fill his shoes? (And T-Shirt?)
From June 19th (the most glorious day in Cleveland history) to at least 5 days later, one man accomplished something so magnificent even the President of the United States noticed.
J.R. Smith did not wear a shirt. After his emotional postgame speech at the end of Game 7, where in tears he discussed the inspiration his parents were to his entire life, Smith went shirtless.
Since putting back on a shirt, J.R. Smith has been contract-less, to this point, no correlation has been made between the two.
Many a Clevelander has spoken their love for Smith.
After all, he did lead the Cavaliers’ in three-point percentage these playoffs shooting 43.0 percent. In those first two series his presence was vital both offensive and surprisingly defensively.
In fact, in 2015-16, LeBron James had 240 assists on threes. 81 of those went to J.R. Smith. That’s more than a third of the Cavs three pointers on the year.
Imagine a situation where J.R. somehow doesn’t re-sign with the Cavaliers.
Smith could be the emotional glue to the Cavaliers. Which may be true, but, in a statistical sense, J.R. Smith is replaceable.
To start, let’s take a look at Smith’s stats per 100 possessions last year (2015-16.) If you’re wondering why the use of “Per 100 Possessions” is in play, it takes away the factor of pace and minutes played which when looking at “Per Game” or “Per 36/48 minutes,” does not.
Per 100 possessions, Smith averaged a 12.4 PER, and had a 54.2 true shooting percentage.
To go all Billy Beane on this, to replace J.R. Smith, you need to find a counterpart to replicate those stats.
In other words, is Mike Dunleavy enough of a replacement for Smith?
Best case scenario, JR Smith gets re-signed, but if that doesn’t happen, could Dunleavy step into that role and produce equally?
Per 100 possessions, Mike Dunleavy had a 9.1 PER and a 54.3 true shooting percentage.
Comparing these two players last years, their stats are almost identical. Smith averaged .8 more steals per 100. Dunleavy averaged 1.2 rebounds more. They shared an identical amount of assists and almost an identical true shooting percentage.
They largest discrepancy between Dunleavy and Smith last year statistically is points. Smith averaged 20.8 points, exactly five more than Dunleavy’s 15.8.
Now, let’s take a look at difference of situations. Dunleavy has played only 94 games the past two years due to injury implications. In a Chicago Bulls offense that ranked 21st in the league with only an 108.5 offensive rating.
Putting Mike Dunleavy next to LeBron James, one of the best 3 point distributors in the game, can only create good things for Dunleavy’s stats.
To give a glimpse of what a healthy Dunleavy can do, take a look at Dunleavy’s stats per 100 possesions in the 2013-14 season.
Per 100 Possesions in the 2013-14 season, Mike Dunleavy had a 12.6 PER, and a 54.9 true shooting percentage.
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A healthy Dunleavy is able to match J.R. Smith’s offensive production. He averaged an assist more, 2.4 more rebounds, and a better true shooting percentage per 100 Possesions. Even though he was off by 1.7 points per 100, when Mike Dunleavy started for the Bulls in 2011-12 he averaged 24 points per 100 possessions, an a improvement over J.R.’s 20.8 points per 100 possessions in the 2015-16 season.
No, Mike Dunleavy isn’t the same player as J.R. Smith. Dunleavy’s not as great of a 3 point shooter as Smith, and he’s not near the perimeter defender J.R. can be.
But, if an injury occurs, or shockingly Cleveland doesn’t work out a deal with “J.R. Swish,” the Cavaliers will have a viable option in Mike Dunleavy at shooting guard.
Do you agree that the Cavs would be fine without Smith? Let us know in the comments section or follow and tweet us @KJG_NBA.