Alonzo Gee has been the source of some controversy for Cavs' fans this year. He's been forced to play more minutes than any other Cavalier. Unfortunately, those minutes haven't been perfect. David Zavac and I decided to hash out the differences we have in our opinions on Gee in an email thread. This is what ensued:
Sam: What's up, David? Good to get to discuss this topic in a little bit more detail than we get to on Twitter. Last night we had a little bit of this discussion. Where do you see Gee fitting long-term? I think you see him as more of a piece moving forward than I do.
David: I do see Gee being a valuable part of the team, for the foreseeable future. Before I get into what role I envision, I should admit that there are some biases that color my views on Alonzo Gee, and my guess is they are there for a lot of Cavaliers fans. Every Cavs fan is on board with the rebuild, as far as I can tell. There are a lot of disagreements on whether it's on track, or if Chris Grant or Byron Scott are the right ones to lead it, but most people are pretty understanding of the fact that the process is going to take time. In the meantime, the Cavs are now in their third year of giving Developmental League players serious playing time. The list is long, and depressing: Manny Harris, Samardo Samuels, DJ Kennedy, Lester Hudson, Jeremy Pargo, Shaun Livingston, Jon Leuer, Kevin Jones, Donald Sloan, Luke Harangody, and Alonzo Gee. Of this list (and I am sure I am missing a couple others) Alonzo Gee is the only one who actually has been able to look like a viable NBA player over a series of more than five games. So I think it is natural that Cavs fans want to believe that over three years, Grant and Scott were able to find and develop a real diamond in the rough. If Livingston continues to impress, he will find himself in the same boat. I want to believe that the hours I spent in 2011 and 2012 talking myself into Alonzo Gee were not in vain.
So before you shatter my dreams and try and prove to me that Gee isn't good enough, I will tell you what I am looking for from him. I want 18-22 minutes a game spread out between the 2-3 positions. The 7th or 8th man. This season, Gee has played 1469 minutes, more than any other Cavalier, and over 200 more minutes than any Cavalier not named Tristan Thompson. A pretty high percentage of those minutes are spent guarding the other teams best perimeter player. Bring his minutes down, and I would hope his efficiency numbers go up. Right now, we are simply asking him to do too much.
Sam: Oh god. That was such a laundry list of ineptitude that I needed to wipe my laptop off from all of the vomit I just projectiled onto the screen.
However, I do understand your point. As someone who irrationally looks over the D-League trying to find fits for the Cavs, I can see why you want Gee to fit in so well. But, I'm just not sure it's there.
Gee is asked to play a lot of minutes, and I hope that that stops now that there is a legitimate back-up 2 guard to take some of the load off of C.J. Miles at that spot in Wayne Ellington. Hopefully, this allows Miles to play more minutes as a back-up small forward. Because man, Gee has been bad this year.
Gee's PER comes in at a Waltonian 10.93 so far with all of those minutes. Out of the 146 players who have played at least 1000 minutes this season, Gee comes in at 137. He is in last among small forwards (unless you want to consider Kyle Singler a small forward for the purposes of this exercise). Sure, some of that can be attributed to playing too much which has sapped his efficiency. But the problem is that his numbers really aren't that out of line with last year's. His field goal percentage has gone from .412 last year only to .407 this year. His three-point percentage is only down from .321 last year to .302 this year. Actually, his eFG% is the same as last season at .452. He's never been a strong rebounder because of the fact that at 6'5" he's a slightly undersized 3. We all know his deficiencies passing the ball from when he just puts his head down in transition instead of finding the open trailer.
There's the argument that he's a great defender, but I actually don't agree with that either. He's good on the ball (his quickness allows him to guard point guards, which is a major point in his favor as far as versatility is concerned), but I think he's a wreck off the ball and in transition. The Cavs defense has actually been better with him off the court this season (with him on the court, they give up 111.7 points per 100 possessions. With him off the court: 106.1).
I know there's the fact that he's on a pretty solid contract at 3.25M for each of the next two years, the last of which is a team option. But with the Cavs looking to clear cap space for the 2013-2014 season, I'm not sure I wouldn't decline that option if I'm Chris Grant and see what I can do with that money. I think that Alonzo Gees are a dime a dozen and that you might as well pay someone the minimum instead of 3.25M
David: Look at you with all your fancy metrics. Do you even watch the games? Look, I know you think that by crunching numbers in your parents basement you can develop fancy statistics to prove anything and everything, but sports aren't a science. When basketball is great, its like a symphony, with each player adding their piece to the greater whole to create a beautiful noise, with texture and sophistication. When basketball is great, the sum is greater than a simple collection of its parts. This is where Alonzo Gee comes in. Ok, none of that was serious. And your numbers are pretty alarming.
But there is value in a guy who can guard three positions, and Gee can do both for the most part. He isn't a lock down defender. When Byron Scott says he is one of the best in the league, well, that is just silly. Watching him run a fast break is one of the most fascinatingly terrible things we have the pleasure of witnessing as Cavs fans. This would all just be so much easier if he shot 37-38% from three point range, instead of 30%. I really do think that if he was limited to 20 minutes a game, and expended less energy defensively, he could get it up to 35%. His free throw percentage is right at 80%, and I don't think his form is terrible. It takes him a long time to get the shot off. He isn't a starting small forward in the NBA, but we ask him to be one. He isn't an elite defender, but we ask him to be one. His NBA destiny is in specializing, and the Cavaliers aren't ready for him to do that just yet.
His future with the Cavs is murky. His contract says he gets at least next year. Hopefully, we get some type of upgrade at the small forward spot, and he gets to try out that role off the bench before Cleveland makes a decision on his option. I don't have much confidence that they will. We simply don't know what type of money the Cavs will need to clear off the cap for 2014 free agency, but $3.25 for a defensive specialist on point guards and shooting guards seems pretty reasonable. He has an outstanding relationship with Byron Scott (seriously, right before tip-off of just about every game he stands by the check-in area and Scott and him are talking and laughing. I don't know why I notice these things) and his D-League to riches story is a good example for the young Cavs. He works hard, shows up, and does his job. 18-20 minutes of defensive energy and Gee-force slam dunks each night seems about right, at a decent cost.
Sam: I really wish you could have seen my face after reading this. After sitting through an hour and a half of accounting and then reading that first paragraph, I almost fainted.
I definitely agree that if he's to make it in the NBA, it's as a 3 and D specialist. I'm just not sure he can do that. He seems destined to be a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type of player.
-He's a decent on-ball defender, but the team is worse defensively with him on the floor because of his mistakes off the ball.
-He's a decent shooter, but not good enough to be a pure spot-up guy.
-He's really athletic, but doesn't have a good enough handle to be a slasher.
-He's a great finisher in transition, but he has to concentrate so much on dribbling that he can't see trailers to pass to.
There are just too many holes in his game for him to be a specialist I think. And it's a little late for him to improve at 25 years old (going to be 26 in May). But I think there are a lot of other guys out there making the minimum who could do what he do. For instance, can't that be what D.J. Kennedy does? Or Damion James? They're both solid defenders at the three spot who might be able to shoot 30% from 3.
There are guys in the draft like Jae Crowder every year who fall in the draft. Just this year, guys like Solomon Hill, Victor Oladipo (shooting over 50% from 3 this year), and my personal favorite Reggie Bullock will fall to the middle-to-end of the first round at the earliest and could be awesome 3 and D guys in the league at small forward. I just think this spot is easy to fill with that Lakers/Heat first round pick this year if we actually decide to address it, which we should. I cannot emphasize enough how many backflips I would do to have Oladipo's defense or Bullock's size and shooting next year.
It's not that Gee isn't making a reasonable amount of money.I just feel that there are better ways to allocate that money for the production that he can provide. The relationship he has with Scott (I agree that it's clear Scott loves him. He gushes about him every time he speaks about him) nearly assures his place on this team for the next two years going forward, but I'm just not sure that it should. I hope that when the time comes, Grant will make the tough decision if the cap situation necessitates it.
We need to do this more often, David. I had fun.