Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard J.R. Smith is reportedly nearing a return to the floor after he hit the shelf in December following surgery on his fractured right thumb.
According to Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon, head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters on Friday he hopes Smith is back in action within the "next 10 days to two weeks."
"They're saying he's been looking better and better every day, he had a good workout yesterday, so hopefully we get him back soon," Lue said, per Vardon.
Smith hasn't suited up since Dec. 20 against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he was recently spotted by The Athletic's Jason Lloyd getting shots up before the Cavs' 103-99 loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday:
Jason Lloyd @JasonLloydNBA
J.R. Smith on this road trip, getting shots up this morning https://t.co/91ayVv5tFI2017-3-1 14:49:41
Although Smith struggled to the tune of 8.6 points per game on 33.7 percent shooting from the field in 21 games before he was sidelined indefinitely, he figures to play a key role for the defending champs as they eye back-to-back titles.
Case in point: The Cavaliers' most-used lineup this season features Smith alongside Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. In 300 minutes together, that unit outscored opponents by 9.3 points per 100 possessions with an offensive rating of 113.7.
Not only will Smith's return (and Kevin Love's) allow Cleveland to enter more of an offensive comfort zone once the postseason starts, but it will afford Lue the luxury of shifting Iman Shumpert back to the bench alongside the likes of Kyle Korver and Deron Williams.
"It's going to be a process but it's a great process to have when we've got great players that now we have a roster of 12 guys that should be playing," Lue said of integrating all of the new additions upon Smith's return. "That's always a good thing to happen."
With the deepest roster the Eastern Conference has to offer, the Cavaliers figure to give the rest of their postseason challengers nightmares as they prepare to roll out wave after wave of talent once the postseason gets underway.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com.