Alonzo Gee is obviously not the long-term answer at starting small-forward. He's an imperfect player probably best-suited for 15-20 hustle minutes off the bench, where he can terrorize opposing players on the defensive end with his energy level. However, has he done enough over the last two games to wrangle the starting small forward position away from Earl Clark, who seemed to be the favorite going into camp?
Clark sat out the game on Monday for simple resting measures, meaning I think we can expect him to get quite a bit of run on Wednesday against the Wizards. But Monday, Gee took advantage of his opportunity. He went 5-10 for 14 points to go along with two rebounds, blocks, and assists, along with three steals. This followed a solid performance on Saturday against the Pacers, where Gee played 18 minutes and scored nine points on five shots. Gee has outperformed Clark so far this preseason, and coach Mike Brown seemed extremely impressed with Gee's performance on Monday in particular:
"I thought Alonzo played very good basketball. [He] took what was given to him. We ask our small forwards to defend first, rebound second, and keep the game simple because we got a couple guys out there that can dance with the basketball. You keep the game simple by keeping your hands ready and spotting up, particularly in the corner if you can, and when that ball hits your hands let it go because you're gonna be open a lot of the time."
If keeping it simple is what Brown wants from the small forward position, I'm not sure that there is a person more equipped to do that than Gee. Even though Gee seemed to be a favorite of Byron Scott last season, I feel pretty confident that Gee is in a better position to succeed this season. Coach Brown is not going to give Gee the rope to do what he wants with the ball like Scott did because of his hustle. Brown expects that hustle out of everyone, therefore the effort level of the entire team should be stronger.
Gee's not perfect for what Mike Brown talked about. If he wants the corner 3 to become a staple of the offense, Gee doesn't seem to be the guy to consistently provide that. Gee shot 31% from the corners last season in 126 attempts, and 26% in 53 corner attempts in 2012. Unless he has vastly improved that part of his game, Gee isn't a guy you want consistently taking that shot. However, Clark has only taken 26 corner threes in his career and has shown a proclivity towards the midrange this preseason.
Maybe Sergey Karasev will eventually take over this spot and start knocking down corner threes with disregard for human life. Maybe C.J. Miles will iron out the issues that have made him shoot 1-9 from three in the past two games before the season starts. And maybe Anthony Bennett will even drop 25 pounds in the next week and make himself a capable small forward. However, as of this moment in time, I would expect Alonzo Gee to be the starter on opening night against the Nets, with Clark backing him up.
And surprisingly, I'm totally okay with that.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Completely agree with Sam's read on the situation, but wanted to add that Mike Brown was asked multiple times after the game if there was a favorite to win the starting job and he refused to say that anyone had pulled ahead. He also mentioned that the starter could fluctuate throughout the season]