Seeing Alonzo Gee return to the starting lineup this early in the season is not a good sign and is definitely something I didn’t want Mike Brown to resort to within the first two weeks of the season. Although I agree with Brown’s thinking that maybe Earl Clark needed to be benched a game to sort out some mental issues with his transition to pure three, we are going into a third season where we could see Gee start a majority of the games at three and muster by with 10 points and four rebounds. Also, during his time as a Cavalier, Gee has done absolutely nothing to deserve the starting role ,like he (kind of) did three seasons ago to take over Omri Casspi’s job.
We can talk about the enormous black hole at small forward ad nauseam, but Brown did make clear that this change was made to ignite a spark in the Cavs starting lineup. Guys like C.J. Miles and Jarrett Jack have been coming off the bench and contributing more than guys who receive minutes against opposing starters, however.
That seems to be Gee’s problem. The Cavaliers small forward played and started in all 82 games last season, while averaging 31.0 minutes per game. He only mustered just over 10 points per game in the 2012-13 campaign, but if you look at Gee’s play through seven games this season, he is much more efficient for the Cavaliers in 21 minutes of play.
Gee is shooting six shots less per game this season, leading to better shooting percentages from the field and charity stripe. The most important stat, however, is the rate at which Gee is rebounding at. In 10 more minutes of play last season, last season’s Gee would only be averaging 0.8 rebounds more than this season’s form.
That’s where Mike Brown’s decision to try out Gee in the home matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday comes in. He’s been hustling on defense coming off the bench–where I like to see him–and Brown, obviously, loves to see that. That’s what earns him more minutes than Clark.
But the reason why Clark was moved to the bench early in Friday’s matchup with Philadelphia and didn’t play a minute on Saturday night was due to his offensive struggles. Since the first game–in which Clark shot 40 percent from the field, scored nine points, grabbed eight rebounds and logged 27 minutes–Clark has down spiraled. Over his past five games, he has averaged 3.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 15 minutes, while shooting 26.1 percent from the field. He definitely deserves some pine time for his lack of production on the offensive end and on the boards.
In that same five-game span in which Gee sat behind Clark, the Wine & Gold’s starter last season averaged 4.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 22.6 minutes, while shooting 44.4 percent from the field. Because of the minute gap, despite coming off of the bench, Gee has had a lot more opportunities since the Brooklyn Nets game to make an impact against non-starters. If Gee can’t produce more than eight points in 20+ minutes, then I don’t want to see him in the starting lineup either.
I know that C.J. Miles is on a tear right now and had consistency problems last season, but the backup wing player is doing damage on the court in just over 20 minutes of game play. He is shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and averaging 13.1 points per game. This just further proves that the Cavaliers need an elite player to match up against the superstars playing at small forward nowadays.
Brown realizes that he needed to switch some things up to see if he could spark some chemistry with the Cavaliers starting five. So far, Irving has just recently come to life, Dion Waiters has been pretty absent since opening week and Tristan Thompson has stepped up alongside Anderson Varejao. What’s missing is the glue in the middle, and Gee or Clark have proven that they can’t serve as a part-time adhesive for the 2013-14 Cavaliers in the early going.