MINNEAPOLIS -- The Cleveland Cavaliers figure to be well represented as an organization at next month's NBA All-Star Game. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are both on track to be starters through the second balloting returns, and David Blatt and his coaching staff are set to work the sideline so long as the Cavs hold on to the East's top seed come February. Kevin Love, having a fine season, could very well join them.
However, James stumped for another member of the Cavs to join them in Toronto: J.R. Smith. Specifically, he wants Smith -- who went 5-for-6 from deep in Cleveland's 125-99 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday -- to be a part of the 3-point shootout for the first time in his 12-year career.
"He's never been invited," James said of the All-Star Saturday night event. "I think I might need to start making that petition. Us being the No. 1 team in the East, him shooting the ball the way he's been shooting it, we need to try to get as many guys to All-Star as possible. Guys know in the league he's an unbelievable 3-point shooter and he deserves an invite."
Smith has caught fire as of late, going 18-for-30 from 3 in his last three games and 30-for-65 from deep in the last two weeks to move from No. 25 in 3-pointers made in league history to 20th, passing Mike Bibby, Nick Van Exel, Tim Hardaway and Eddie Jones along the way.
"My dad told me when I passed Bibby and was talking about all the best 3-point shooters of all time and was like, 'Man, I mean, before it's done you're going to be up there, numbers wise, with the greatest 3-point shooters ever,' " Smith told ESPN.com.
Smith is ranked 10th among active players in 3-pointers made behind, in order, Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Jamal Crawford, Kyle Korver, Joe Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Mike Miller. Of those nine other players, only two of them have never been asked to the 3-point contest: Carter and Crawford. (Bryant hasn't participated either, but he was invited in 2008 in New Orleans and had to back out because of a fractured finger.)
"Absolutely," Smith said when asked if he'd like to be a part of the festivities. "In my younger days, I wanted to be one of the first people to win the dunk contest and the 3-point contest, but the dunk contest ain't looking too good for me no more."
Coming into Friday, the Cavs were fourth in the league in 3-point attempts per game at 28.2, but only 10th in 3-point percentage at 35.8. In other words, they've taken on the persona of Smith from the outside: willing and able to launch but not always the most accurate in doing so.
But his teammates wouldn't have it any other way.
"You want him on your team," Irving said. "He has an incredible, innate talent for just hitting tough shots and no matter the time and game [situation], we just know that at any given moment it can go up with him and that's not necessarily in a negative way at all. It's like a positive for us because he gives us that 3-point threat that we need, especially out on the perimeter if we're not making shots. That guy spaces the floor out not only for myself, but 'Bron. ... I'm happy for him that he can be up there with those shooters. Everyone always says, 'Numbers don't lie.' So, for him shooting up those charts means a lot."
It's a symbiotic relationship. Smith opens up driving lanes for Irving and James because he keeps a defender with him on the perimeter. Irving and James, in turn, look to get him wide-open looks when the defense decides to leave Smith to collapse on them.
"As a shooter like that, it's the greatest gift," James said of looks the Cavs' offense generates for Smith. "When you got two guys like myself and Ky that can create so much ... it's like, that's what you live for. You live to be that guy. To be able just to spot up."
Cavs reserve James Jones, like Irving, is a former 3-point shootout winner, and was asked to break down Smith's shot.
"He's a strong shooter as in some guys have to use their legs to get elevation or to generate power," Jones said. "Some guys use their upper bodies. He's a guy that has a combination of both. He's very strong down low, but if you have to ask him to shoot a fadeaway jumper off balanced, he can still get it to the rim and that's a testament to his upper-body strength. So when I say 'strong shooter' it means that he doesn't have to be straight up and down body or momentum leaning forward towards the rim. If he can see the basket, he can get it in there at any angle."
When asked to rank the Cavs' best outside shooters, Smith put himself first, Irving second, Jones third, Kevin Love fourth and James fifth. His confidence is not unfounded. Since joining the Cavs last January, he has hit more 3s than any other player in the East -- including Korver who is celebrated as having one of the most automatic strokes there is. He's also second in NBA history behind Stephen Curry with 14 games with eight made 3s or more. Curry, who passed him earlier this season, has 16.
"It's something I've always worked on and took pride in was my shot and it's just crazy to actually be top 25," Smith said. "It's nuts. I try not to let it dwell in my mind because then I'll just go out there and really just keep shooting."
Smith swears he can shoot his normal jump shot with balanced form all the way out to half court. He practices it with regularity and Jones cosigned on Smith's claim. "If you allow him to use his legs and his athleticism, you're talking about him shooting half-court shots mechanically sound," Smith said. "Not pushing, lunging, not heaving it, but shooting a real jump shot."
Does that mean we'll start seeing him pulling up from 45 feet in games? "Um ... At the end of the half," said Irving, granting permission in the specialized situation. "Yeah, at the end of the half. Not as a regular shot."
The man who goes by the nickname "Swish" accepted the deal. "I'm with it," Smith said.