FanPost

Training Camp Battles: Alonzo Gee vs. C.J. Miles

{Editor's note: promoted because Sam has done a great job with these. Definitely read all of his posts from this series, they're quite well done. At a later date, I'll be providing my input on these crucial training camp battles, but for now, read these.}

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Over the next week or two, I’ll be looking into some of the more intriguing positional and role battles that will face the Cavaliers as training camp and the preseason begin. Within these posts, my goal is to introduce some of the new Cavaliers, understand what’s facing the familiar faces of this team, and seeing who I believe could contribute off the bench this season. The next spot in this running chronicle is the combo of athletic swingmen that Cavs’ fans will be seeing at the small forward spot this season, last season’s revelation there Alonzo Gee and recent addition C.J. Miles.

At that spot, the Cavs are going to see a mix of Gee and Miles, plus the "floor-spacing" that comes from Omri Casspi (shooting in quotation marks, of course, after he shot 31.2% from three-point land last year). Casspi will assuredly see some time this year, and because of my innate appreciation of all mildly non-athletic European gunners I still have some hope for him to catch on and make some shots this season for the Cavs. The short camp didn’t help him last year and barring trade he’ll be a part of the team for at least the entirety of this season, so let’s hope these wishes for his success don’t go unfulfilled. The Cavs also have Kelenna Azubuike at this spot, but as Conrad said, it’s going to be an uphill battle for him to make the team. Moving forward, this article will be devoted to the athletic combination that will be getting time in Miles and Gee.

I’ll start with Miles, who had spent the entirety of his career with the Jazz prior to this season. Miles was a McDonald’s High School All-American in 2005, where he was universally considered a five-star prospect and had committed to the University of Texas. He ended up forgoing that option after being drafted early in the second round by the Jazz due to their guaranteeing of the first two seasons of his contract. He spent parts of those two seasons in the D-League, but since then has been a regular in Utah’s lineup. He’s averaged over 20 minutes per game in each of the last four seasons, and hasn’t averaged under 9 points per game during that time, along with being a long, athletic defender with a huge wingspan of around 6’11." He also plays shooting guard, giving him a little bit of flexibility that Gee doesn’t really have in my opinion. Having said that, Miles has been stronger at the small forward spot during his career.

The biggest issue for Miles offensively since he’s begun playing legitimate minutes in the NBA has been the erosion of his shooting stroke. His field-goal percentage has dropped each of the past four seasons (from .459 all the way down to .381 last year), as has his three-point percentage (from .352 to .307). He’s never been an especially strong rebounder for the small forward spot, never finishing among the top 50% of all small forwards in total rebounding rate. Miles was especially bad in this regard last year, with a rate of 9.0, which was 62nd among the 63 qualified small forwards last year (he would have been tied for 49th among 83 shooting guards last year, which is better but should be higher for a guy who saw a majority of his time at small forward last season). Plus, during this time his usage rate has gone up from being 17.0 in 2008-09 to peaking in 2010-2011 at 23.0 (good for 4th among all small forwards and the reason why his counting stats spiked that year) and last season settling at 21.0. So basically, Miles went from being a low-usage player who was a reliable shooting option on offense to a high-usage player shooting under 40 percent from the field.

One part of Miles’ game that has been constant though is his ability to defend. He is especially strong in isolation situations, where he held opponents to a 28.6 shooting percentage from the field and 0.72 points-per-possession, all very high marks (although in a limited sample size). He was also pretty effective at closing out on spot-up shooters last year, where opponents only shot 33.3% against in him a much larger sample. This specifically is an aspect that would be helpful to the Cavs, as they were dead last in the NBA in 2011-2012 at defending spot-up shooters, giving up 1.03 points-per-possession (hopefully that is rectified somewhat by getting rid of Jamison, but it was still a struggle nonetheless). Miles’ defense on the wing is a large reason why he will assuredly get minutes this season on both wings.

I think a good comparison I can make to C.J. Miles’ career so far is the show How I Met Your Mother. Both started their career in 2005-06 with great promise and that promise continued to develop until around their respective fourth seasons, where they peaked as efficient, clever sources of basketball and entertainment. Neither was ever the tent pole or centerpiece of their team (in HIMYM’s case, that helm on Mondays belonged to Two and a Half Men for CBS), but both were always solid contributors to the cause. But after their fourth season, we as an audience of basketball fans and television aficionados have received diminishing returns on their success. However, just like How I Met Your Mother continues to lure the viewer back in due to its charming comedic sensibility and the viewer’s emotional investment in the characters, Miles does the same with big games (check out his games last February against the Rockets and last April against the Suns) and tantalizing tools which include his athleticism, wingspan, and the ability he has shown in the past to shoot well from the perimeter. Even though they aren’t the same player or television show, each can on any given night wow you with the package they bring to the table. That’s why the Miles signing was smart for the Cavs, not just for depth purposes but also because there is always that possibility that he remembers what made him so good in the first place four years ago for the Jazz. Miles is a high-school player who didn’t take the easy way to get to the NBA. He had to work to stay in the NBA as a teenager. He had to work to get into Jerry Sloan’s rotation. And even though Jerry Sloan might not have thought so sometimes, Miles obviously continued to work hard to continue to get minutes for the Jazz. He’s going to be a good fit with Byron Scott’s attitude, and I think and he might even be a guy Scott shows trust in by the time we see the Cavaliers play.

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Having written fairly recently about Gee here prior to his contract, I probably won’t delve too deeply into his background and totals. What I will say about Gee that I didn’t say in July is that he is a stronger rebounder than Miles, he’s better at getting to the rim, and he’s even been a better shooter than Miles recently, although I think that a change of scenery could help Miles in this regard for reasons I’ll delve into at the end. Gee was a very reliable small forward for the Cavaliers last year who was good for a solid 7-15 points per night consistently and tough work defensively. At 25 years old, he’s probably maxed out as far as what his potential is, but as a guy who will be making a little over $3 million for the next three seasons, I’m glad he’s sticking around for the foreseeable future. Plus, market-level contracts can always be used as trade bait if the situation arises where Gee becomes expendable. Guys like Alonzo Gee are always good to have on a basketball team even if it’s coming off the bench eventually.

When we look at Gee vs. Miles for who should get more minutes, it basically comes down to an offense versus defense skill-set from what they’ve shown recently. Gee across the board last year had better offensive numbers. At this moment in time if you made me guess who would be starting opening day for the Cavs, I would probably cop out and answer both. Even though Miles is better as a small forward, I don’t think Scott will start Dion Waiters immediately at shooting guard barring an insane, Kyrie Irving-like preseason. Miles is then the best remaining option at shooting guard. And there are certainly reasons to have a little more faith about Miles as a spot-up shooter despite his numbers last year. The Jazz haven’t had a legitimate point guard to break down defenses and force help defenders to come off of jump shooters since Deron Williams was traded. Miles could easily become a legitimate shooting threat again if he can get less contested looks. However, as the season goes on and Waiters’ minutes are increased, I believe that Miles will begin to see a majority of his minutes come at the small forward spot. I have more faith in Gee to handle the responsibilities of the small forward spot at this time due to the diminishing offensive skill that Miles has shown over the last four years. We just don’t know whether or not Miles is going to rediscover that shooting touch. This is a situation where I would love to look back at the end of the season at this article and be wrong for thinking Gee was better because when Miles is playing well, he’s a better player than Gee. Hopefully Miles looks better than he did in his last two years in Utah. Miles has continued to show himself to be a better defender in my opinion due to his quickness, but Gee also was responsible for tough assignments last year. While his defensive metrics don’t back it up, no Cavalier from last season is going to look good if we only look at those. Gee just seems to be the more reliable player, so I’m taking him as of right now as far as who I’d want getting the work at the end of close games.

Also, as a funny way to end this column, here is ESPN’s player page for Alonzo Gee depicting him as 65 feet tall.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on FearTheSword.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff at FearTheSword

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