Off-Season Homework: The Alonzo Gee and Tyler Zeller Edition

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Cleveland Cavaliers have two immediate options when it comes to improving as a basketball team. The first is that they can make trades and signings and draft picks that play better than the guys whose minutes they are taking. The second way would be for players who have already been acquired to work on and develop their games. This series is dedicated to looking at ways for individual Cavaliers to make themselves more valuable to the organization.

An overwhelming majority of Cavaliers fans are happy that Alonzo Gee will continue to wear the Wine & Gold over the next few years. He played hard last year, proved durable, and is generally a feel-good story about a guy who finally made it in the NBA thanks to perseverance and a Cleveland organization that gave him a chance. But Gee is still a guy who as a restricted free agent failed to attract much attention from other teams around the league. Much of his perceived value in Cleveland is speculative, and involves more hard work and development. At the age of 25, this is certainly possible, though hardly a done deal. Gee was helpful for a very bad Cavaliers team last season; it remains to be seen whether he can be helpful to a very good Cavaliers team in the future.

If he wants to get there, and I believe he can, there are two immediate areas in which Alonzo Gee must improve. The first is his three-point shooting, and it really isn't even that bad at the moment. He is a career 34.5% shooter from distance, which makes you believe he could improve. His mechanics on his shot are decent. His 32.1% effort last season was a bit of a step back, but the Cavaliers were asking him to do a lot more than was really fair in the last couple months of the season. Injuries decimated the roster, and Gee was logging heavy minutes. He also spent the first part of the season coming off the bench, which meant limited time with Kyrie Irving. Gee's goal should be to get in the 37-38% range so that defenses can't just collapse when Kyrie Irving or Dion Waiters drive into the paint. It will also free up opportunities for his own driving if people have to respect head and shot fakes. His defense and three point shooting will never be on the level of a Bruce Bowen type player, but improved shooting will help Alonzo as his considerable athletic ability starts to diminish.

The second area that it would be nice to see Alonzo improve is simply his ball-handling. He turned the ball over nearly twice a game in 29 minutes of action last season. Part of this seems to a problem that Gee shares with Tristan Thompson, as Conrad described in his excellent article: he is simply trying to create too much of his own offense instead of relying on his points to be assisted on or come in the common flow of the offense. More time on the court with Kyrie, and the addition of another capable distributor in Waiters should help. Alonzo Gee, in a perfect world, is a spot-up shooter and slasher. He should not be trying to break people down off the dribble. At times his athleticism outpaces his skill-set, and this leads to turnovers. More time with Irving and Waiters, better shooting, and less turnovers could lead to a PER of 15 for Gee.

As a rookie, Tyler Zeller is in a lot of ways an unknown. But there are a few things that I think it is possible to ascertain he will need to improve on if he wants to be a productive member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. There is less pressure on Zeller to figure it all out in the near future as a rookie, but hereare a couple of things to keep an eye out for. The first is simply muscle mass. He has to add it. As David Thorpe has written about on ESPN, NBA training regimen are simply in a different class that what college teams, even at programs like North Carolina, can offer. (As a side note, this is an important point for Dion Waiters. If you are really worried about what he looks like before going through Camp Scott and getting to the Cavaliers' world-class training facility you are jumping the gun a little bit). We are all pretty sure that Zeller has good shooting skills and can run, but will he be able to bang inside? If he is going to be a competent NBA defender and defensive rebounder, he better.

The other thing that I will be watching with some interest is the different coaching styles of Coach Byron Scott and Roy Williams at North Carolina, who was with Zeller for 4 years. Roy Williams is a Hall of Fame coach but isn't exactly known for his team's playing aggressive or tough defense. And while he can get worked up during the games, he is a folksy laid-back guy off of it. Coach Scott is intense. All the time. By all accounts, Zeller is a class act who is incredibly smart and hard-working. But how does he take criticism? What happens the first time he finds himself in the doghouse? I don't think there is anything to worry about, but if these articles are at least in some part about adjustments we think the players are going to have to be making, I think this qualifies as something to watch out for.

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