The Cleveland Cavaliers were going through the motions until they shook up their roster.
Out went Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder, in came J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from New York as part of a three-team deal.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The trade seems to have energized the Cleveland Cavaliers who have won 14 of their last 19 games since the trade and are 10-1 in games when Shumpert has actually taken the court.
It is not a coincidence that the Cavaliers have been playing better basketball since the trade.
J.R. Smith has averaged 12.9 points per contest in the 19 games that he has taken the floor for Cleveland and Shumpert is averaging 7.3 points per contest in the 11 games he has taken the floor for the Cavs.
The minute this trade went through for Cleveland, it gave them credibility for the Eastern Conference crown that they did not have before. The reason is that with Dion Waiters on the squad, Cleveland had a player that was learning how to play winning ball, a player that had zero big game experience in his career to speak of.
With Shumpert and J.R. Smith in the mix, the Cavs have two players that have at least played some meaningful playoff basketball.
The Cavs are already feeling the impact that J.R. Smith can make for their team offensively, but what is to come is the defensive impact that Iman Shumpert is going to be able to make on the Cavaliers’ opposition.
Shumpert is capable of defending three positions, and will make a major impact on a Cavs team who’s defensive prowess has been questioned since the opening tip to the 2014-15 season.
That is where Shumpert’s contribution is going to be made.
Jan 27, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Jodie Meeks (20) fights for a loose ball against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) and guard Iman Shumpert (4) during the fourth quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Cavs beat the Pistons 103-95. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
We already know that “Shump” is functional enough on the offensive end to knockdown open shots that are created off penetration by Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, as well as finish on the break, and create his own shot when the moment is right.
Since joining Cleveland, Shumpert has shot 52.5% from the floor and 44.1% from three-point land.
But the defense Shumpert will provide on the wing is what is going to separate the Cleveland Cavaliers from the rest of the pack as Shumpert gets comfortable moving forward in the second half of the season.
With “King James” at one wing and Shumpert playing defensive stopper on the opposite wing when he is called upon, Cleveland is going to be stifling the competition with their perimeter defense.
In addition, with the game intensity picking up in the second half, and the Cavaliers still having an opportunity to climb the Eastern Conference ladder in order to grab a top two seed, defense is going to be at a premium.
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That is where Iman Shumpert’s impact will be felt in a major way in the second half of the season, and that is why the Cleveland Cavaliers are on the verge of a major run in the second half of the season.
Before the trade, Cleveland’s learning curve was going to be too great to truly worry about them being a threat for the Eastern Conference crown.
After acquiring J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, as well as Timofey Mozgov to man the middle at center in place of an injured Anderson Varejao, the learning curve of the Cleveland Cavaliers has been dramatically reduced going into the stretch run toward the playoffs.
Iman Shumpert has his best games of the this season ahead of him, and as long as he is healthy, the Cavs opposition is going to be on its heels.
If Cleveland was not dangerous before, they are now!