11:39am: The Cavaliers have officially confirmed that Smith fractured his right thumb and will undergo surgery. A timeline for his recovery will be established following the procedure, according to the team.
10:37am: The Cavaliers’ fears have been realized, according to Windhorst, who reports (via Twitter) that Smith will require surgery on his injured thumb and will be out for an extended period.
8:39am: J.R. Smith left the Cavaliers’ Tuesday night game in Milwaukee early due to a thumb injury, with the team releasing a statement after the game announcing that images taken at the arena were “inconclusive” and that Smith will be re-examined in Cleveland on Wednesday. While it’s not clear if today’s exam has taken place yet, sources tell Dave McMenamin of Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com that the Cavs fear Smith’s right thumb is broken.
Smith, who signed a lucrative new four-year contract with the Cavaliers this fall, has gotten off to a slow start in 2016/17. The 31-year-old has seen his scoring average dip to just 8.6 PPG, and his .337 FG% is easily a career worst, though he’s still making 36.2% of his three-pointers.
Although Smith has struggled, the Cavs would be in a tough spot if his thumb is indeed broken and he’s forced out of action for an extended period. The team’s 15-man roster already includes one player who has retired (Mo Williams) and one player who is out for the season (Chris Andersen), and the Cavs have limited flexibility to turn over those roster spots, given how far their team salary is into tax territory.
So far this season, Smith is averaging 28.9 minutes per game, the fifth-highest mark on the Cavs. As long as he’s out of the lineup, players like Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson, Mike Dunleavy, and DeAndre Liggins are candidates for increased roles in Cleveland.