Cavalier guard J.R. Smith’s surgery to repair a complex fracture of his right thumb was completed on Friday morning at the Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center in Montrose, Ohio. The surgery was performed by renowned hand surgeon Dr. Thomas Graham of Northwell Health of New York. Dr. TJ Reilly of the Crystal Clinic assisted. Also present was Dr. Richard D. Parker of Cleveland Clinic Sports Health. Smith will now undergo a period of recovery and rehabilitation for his thumb and his return to play timeline is currently projected at 12-14 weeks.
That timeline would put Smith out until late March and mean he’ll miss 40 to 47 more games.
DeAndre Liggins will likely keep starting at shooting guard in Smith’s place so Iman Shumpert can stay in his comfortable – though likely enhanced – reserve role. Liggins is a solid defender, but he can’t match Smith’s outside shooting. Shumpert having a nice season alleviates some concern in Cleveland.
But this still puts a little more pressure on the Cavs to finally add a rotation-caliber backup point guard. That could come via trade or signing. With Chris Andersen out for the year and on an expiring minimum contract, waiving him to open a roster spot carries little pain.
The Cavaliers are the class of the Eastern Conference with plenty of margin for error. Smith’s injury eats only somewhat into that.
Still, it could open the door for the Raptors, who are just 1.5 games out of first place in the East. But LeBron James has shown an ability to win playoff series without home-court advantage. Getting Smith healthy and fully functioning will do more for Cleveland’s postseason prospects than an extra home game in the Eastern Conference finals.