As we move into the middle of July, there is an excellent chance that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster is essentially set for the beginning of the season. Sure there is the possibility of a surprise trade, and the fifteenth spot on the roster is wide open as few see Chris Quinn returning to the team, but there is an excellent chance we know all of the contenders for playing time with the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers (at least until the trading deadline). As a Cavaliers fan, there are many reasons to be optimistic. This is a young, talented squad that is the deepest we have seen since the LeBron James era. However with that additional depth, playing time will be harder to come by for some Cavaliers who were stalwarts in the rotation last year. Two players who will probably battle one another for one of the last spots in the rotation are Alonzo Gee and C.J. Miles.
An important factor to remember when discussing playing time is that there are only 240 minutes of playing time available each game. That takes the 48 minutes of each game and multiplies it by the five positions on the floor. Obviously Gee and Miles will not see any time at point guard, power forward, or center. That leaves 96 minutes at shooting guard and small forward. However Dion Waiters will receive at least 30-32 minutes a game at shooting guard, and Jarrett Jack will probably receive another 10 to 15 minutes at this position playing alongside Kyrie Irving. Additionally, Earl Clark is making $4.5 million next year for a reason, even if he does not start, Clark will play 23-30 minutes a game at small forward due to Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett leaving almost no time at power forward (Kevin Jones will probably get the garbage minutes). This leaves 19 to 33 minutes a game at the wing positions for Gee and Miles to share. The high-end of the estimates would allow both to play 16-17 minutes a game, which is probably a total that suits both players and the Cavaliers well, but the low estimate would only allow one player to play regularly. Considering Mike Brown is typically has used a rather short rotation, there is an excellent chance that only one of Gee or Miles is a regular in the rotation. The question of course is, who should it be?
In many ways, Gee and Miles bring similar intangibles to the table. Both men are 6’6″, 26 years old, and were born roughly a month apart. Both are seen as solid teammates who were happy to be a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers last year. The work ethic and character of each player have never been questioned during their time with the Cavaliers. So, in choosing who would fit best in the Cavaliers’ rotation, the focus should simply be on each players’ strengths and weaknesses on the court.
C.J. Miles has never met a shot that he didn’t like. I can’t count how many times I would shake my head at what appeared to be a poor shot by Miles early in the shot clock only to watch that shot go in. That doesn’t mean that they were the best shots, just that a surprising amount of them paid off for Miles. Overall he had a bit of a resurgence for the Cavaliers last year, as he posted a PER of 15.3 and saw his three-point percentage rise to 38% after shooting less than 31% from three with a 12.4 PER the year before with the Utah Jazz. According to 82games.com, the Cavaliers where better on both ends when Miles was playing, scoring 0.4 more points per 100 possessions and allowing 2.2 fewer points over the same span. Miles has shown himself to be a capable, if wildly inconsistent defender over his eight years in the league. He is also capable of creating his own shot, and is an adequate rebounder at roughly 4 per 36 minutes. While his FG% last season was a somewhat low 41%, this is partially due to over half of his shots being three pointers. With a salary of 2.2 million this year, Miles is a bit of a bargain for the Cavaliers, although on nights when his shot is not falling Miles is known to lose interest and become a liability on both ends of the floor.
Alonzo Gee is the kind of story that sports fans love. Undrafted out of the University of Alabama in 2009, Gee used hard work to carve out a niche in the NBA. Gee is a hard-working defender and explosive dunker who has a knack for getting to the free throw line and converting his chances. While he regularly takes corner threes, Gee is a below average three-point shooter, converting roughly 32% over each of the last two seasons. In addition, Gee’s impact on either side of the floor is debatable, as his 2012-13 stats at 82games.com show that the Cavaliers were better on both ends of the court when Gee was off the floor. Part of this can be explained by the fact that Gee regularly defended the other teams’ best perimeter player and only left the game when that player did as well. Gee’s durability also worked against his efficiency as the Cavaliers would rely on him way more than they should ever have to when injuries ravaged their team each of the last two years. Either way, whether Gee starts or not, be should not play more than 15-20 minutes a night for a team with playoff aspirations.
So that does it Cavalier fans, if you have to choose between Alonzo Gee and C.J. Miles, who would you pick? Gee gives the more consistent effort, while Miles has greater upside and shooting ability. It’s been a long time since the Cavaliers had to choose between to legitimate NBA players for one spot in their rotation. It will be interesting to see how Mike Brown solves “problems” such as this.