And that's why he wants Smith back for the stretch run this season.
The veteran forward is expected to clear waivers on Wednesday, and when that happens, James says he's hopeful that Smith comes back to the Cavaliers, for whom he averaged 8.1 points as a reserve a year ago.
"I think the short time we had with Joe was great," James said Monday night before Cleveland played in Miami. "One of the best guys, one of the best teammates I've ever had. Definitely love to have him back. We'll see what happens, but as an individual, I'd love to have him back."
Smith and the Oklahoma City Thunder came to an agreement for a release over the weekend. Smith, the No. 1 pick in the 1995 NBA draft, averaged 6.6 points and 4.5 rebounds in Oklahoma City, not playing in any of the Thunder's last eight games.
With Cleveland having both a need for another big man -- Ben Wallace could miss up to six weeks with a broken leg -- and the salary flexibility to make a move, it's expected that the Cavaliers will be Smith's destination once again.
"We have not talked about it yet," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said when asked if the team wants to fill its open roster slot. "We can talk about it [Tuesday]. ... Who knows, it could be filled by the next day."
Brown was not talking specifically about Smith, because the forward is still under contract with Oklahoma City.
Smith has played for 10 NBA clubs, averaging 11.7 points in 929 career games.
Brown said he would likely talk with Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry on Tuesday about the prospects of making a move. After the Miami game, Cleveland plays Wednesday at home against Milwaukee, then on Friday at Boston.
"If we find a player who will fit our locker room and we think can help us win, yeah, we'll bring him in," Brown said.
Smith would seem to fit that billing.
The Cavaliers were 14-13 with Smith down the stretch of the regular season a year ago, when he had eight double-figure games off the bench. He also proved to be a tough cover at times last spring against Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals, getting 17 points in Game 3 of that series.
"It wouldn't affect us at all," James said. "He knows the system. We know what type of guy he is and he's a true professional. He never complains about anything and look at how many teams he's played for. Teams always want him."