2015 NBA Playoffs: Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith Changed the Balance of Power in the Eastern Conference


The reality of what we are seeing in the Eastern Conference Playoffs is that in all actuality it may not have happened the way things are standing right now.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets /

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Cleveland Cavaliers team that we are watching right now is not the team that entered the 2014-15 NBA season.

When the Cavs came into this season, there were major questions concerning their backcourt situation. They had a highly volatile situation between star point-guard Kyrie Irving and shooting guard Dion Waiters at that time.

Waiters main thing was that he was not getting the amount of shots that he deemed worthy of a player of his unproven caliber.

The front office finally got tired of the situation and felt that the best way to relieve the pressure was to trade Dion Waiters as part of a three-team deal.

Waiters went to Oklahoma City along with a protected first-round draft pick. Oklahoma City sent three-players who were immediately waved to New York, and New York sent Iman Shumpert and J.R Smith to Cleveland.

This January trade could possibly be the most important deal made this season if it ends up bringing the Cleveland Cavaliers an Eastern Conference Championship and NBA Finals berth.

You can put aside the fact that during the regular season the Cavs were able to improve all the way to the No.2 seed after being as low as No.6.

You also have to add to the equation that the Cavs were able to acquire Timofey Mozgov to solve their problems in the paint after Anderson Varejao went down with an injury.

Even with all of that, if you have watched these playoffs from Day One, you may have seen the fruit that is bearing from this trade in real time. No wonder J.R. Smith decided to blast the New York Knicks on Instagram.

Through two rounds of action, Shumpert and Smith have combined to average 21.7 points per game.

Shumpert is averaging 10.4 points through 10 games played. He started in six games and is shooting 41.7% from the floor and 34% from three-point land.

J.R. Smith is averaging 11.3 points per contest on 42.9% shooting and 35.1% shooting from three-point land.

But the enhancement that both players bring to the two-guard spot goes far beyond the numbers.

In J.R. Smith’s case, he has become someone that LeBron James trusts to take big shots.

In Game 4 against the Chicago Bulls in the Semifinals, Smith hit some big shots to keep the Cavs within striking distance before LeBron James finished Chicago with the kill shot from the left corner to win the game.

Smith has come to Cleveland with the same offensive confidence but is shooting with a little more discretion, which is something that he did not have to do in New York.

Iman Shumpert has proven himself to be a perfect compliment in the backcourt to Smith. He brings the defensive edge to the backcourt that Cleveland needed while also shooting the ball with confidence from deep.

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Another thing Shumpert is doing at a high level for the Cavaliers is rebounding. Shumpert is grabbing 4.9 rebounds per contest and has five or more rebounds in five out of the 10 playoff games he has played in.

The Cavs are preparing for an Eastern Conference Finals bout with the Atlanta Hawks, that may not have ever taken place if it was not for the deal that brought Shumpert and J.R. Smith to Cleveland.

If the Cavaliers make it all the way to the NBA Finals and bring the championship home in June, this trade will be looked at as the major turning point of their fortunes.

Everyone thought that the Kevin Love deal was the clincher.

But with Kevin Love hurt the reality is that Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith coming to Cleveland via trade changed the tide in the Eastern Conference and possibly the entire NBA.