Could Two Cleveland Vets Be Out of the Playoff Rotation?

Yesterday, before the Cavaliers played the Philadelphia 76ers, an interesting tweet surfaced.

This tweet comes from a Senior Editorial Producer for Complex magazine. He is known to tweet a good amount about the NBA, especially the Cavs. In his tweet, his source is Jason Lloyd, the Editor-in-Chief of the Cleveland branch of The Athletic. Both of these writers are verified on Twitter and have a reputation in Cleveland sports, so let’s take a dive into this tweet.

If it is true that JR Smith and Tristan Thompson are currently out of the playoff rotation, that would leave the Cavs with only two players from the 2016 Championship team in the rotation. Both players are having a rough season, but they have been key to our playoff success in the past.

In the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals, JR Smith averaged 18 points per game, including 28 points in Game One. He started every game in the 2016 playoffs and was a large contributor in our 3-1 comeback for the championship. Last playoffs, he started every game once again and averaged 18 points per game in the last three games of the finals. In Game 5, he had 25 points and went 7/8 from downtown. Smith has the ability to change a game when he’s hot and he is of the team’s best defenders in the past.

With Tristan Thompson, he has proven to be valuable by rebounding and adding a defensive presence in the paint. After the first series of the 2015 playoffs, Thompson took over the starting center role. He went on to average 10 points and 13 rebounds in the finals. In 2016, he started every playoff game and helped the Cavs to the championship with his best game being 15 points and 16 rebounds in Game 6. Rebounding seemed to be a weakness for him in the 2017 Finals where he was out-rebounded by Steph Curry. His only double-digit rebound game was the only game the Cavs won, proving his value when he plays well.

Unfortunately, neither of these two have been able to be consistent this season. Thompson has averaged 5.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, while Smith is shooting 37.5% from the 3-point line with 8.3 points per game. Because of this, it is understanding that they would be out of the playoff rotation.

Just last night, Thompson played only six minutes, while Smith played 30 minutes. However, Rodney Hood left the game with an injury, leading to Smith needing to step up. Ever since the trade deadline, Smith has improved and Thompson has lost his spot to Larry Nance Jr. For this reason, I could see that Thompson will be left out of the rotation and Smith will get a decent amount of time. Coach Lue has received a fair share of criticism, especially since his medical leave, but he has proven to do well at finding the right rotation in different circumstances, so I hope he does the right thing. Luckily, we will see who plays and who doesn’t very shortly.

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