J.R. Smith, Cleveland Cavaliers. John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Smith was traded to Cleveland on Jan. 5, 2015 as a throw-in thanks to Phil Jackson, then president of the New York Knicks. As a Cavalier, he became the starting shooting guard for the group that went to four consecutive NBA Finals (2015-2018) and helped the team win its first league title in 2016.
He was an incendiary shooter, an active cutter, a stellar athlete and a vital point-of-attack defender. In Game 3 of the 2016 Finals, Smith shattered Golden State’s perimeter protections with five trifectas on 10 tries in the blowout win.
In Game 7, apart from undercutting Andre Iguodala’s dash to the basket so LeBron James could catch up and pin the rock to the glass, Henny God (Smith) uncorked the Cavalier’s second-half offense with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson covering him. That night, Smith held the Larry O’Brien Trophy with his teammates.
Two years later, Smith was made the butt of jokes when he recovered an offensive rebound in Game 1 of the Finals at the Oracle and ran to the perimeter with the match tied, sending it to overtime. James had 49 points then and was visibly frustrated with Smith. It wasn’t pretty, but most people who ripped him never noticed that before George Hill got to the line, James had the ball and traveled. Had the ref seen it before the pass, it’s curtains. Check the tape.
In his tenure with the Cavaliers, Smith finished as No. 2 in playoff minutes, 3-point makes and steals behind James.