Cleveland Cavaliers: Who Should Start at Small Forward in 2012-2013?
When examining the Cleveland Cavaliers roster, one position stands out as a major weakness.
The Cavs small forward spot is once again extremely thin, with only Alonzo Gee (assuming he signs the qualifying offer), C.J. Miles, Omri Casspi and Luke Walton under contract at the position.
As bad as that may seem, it is an upgrade over the Joey Graham's and Jamario Moon of yesteryear.
So assuming the Cavs are done with free agent signings and trades, who should get the starting nod this fall?
First off, let's take Walton off the contenders list. There shouldn't be any arguments with that.
Candidate No. 1: Alonzo Gee
While not technically under contract yet, the Cavs do hold the rights to Gee and can match any contract he is offered.
They have a $2.7 million qualifying offer on the table which is what Gee will likely end up signing if the Cavs don't come in with a multi-year deal.
Gee began last season as the backup at small forward to Omri Casspi and was great in his role off the bench. Arguably the Cavs most athletic player, Gee threw down his share of thunderous dunks and showed an improved defensive game as well.
Gee eventually beat out Casspi and became the team's full-time starter about halfway into the season. His averages of 10.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game were the best of his young career.
At 25, Gee is still young and has plenty of room to develop. What might hurt him going forward is his holdout from the team and choosing to skip the NBA Summer League while waiting on a multi-year deal.
Candidate No. 2: Omri Casspi
Casspi came over in the J.J. Hickson trade last year and began the season as the teams starting small forward.
The first Israeli-born NBA player, Casspi showed good athleticism and the potential to be a solid overall player and defender at his position.
Despite this potential, Casspi struggled mightily finding his shot and fitting in with the Cavs last year. For the season he averaged 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds on only 40 percent shooting from the field. Despite numerous wide open looks from three thanks to playing alongside Kyrie Irving, Casspi shot a pitiful 31 percent from deep while taking almost three three-pointers per game.
Currently playing in FIBA EuroBasket for Team Israel, Casspi is showing a much improved game.
According to the EuroBasket2013 website, Casspi is averaging 18.2 points and 5.8 rebounds on 57 percent shooting from the field, including 50 percent (14-for-28) on three-pointers.
The Cavs have to hope this inspired play with carry over to the NBA come November.
Candidate No. 3: C.J. Miles
Miles is the newest Cavalier, signing with them in early August to compete for the starting shooting guard or small forward job.
Miles is an athletic 6'6" and 220 pounds that is capable of playing either wing position.
According to team general manager Chris Grant in an interview on Cavs.com:
“C.J. brings solid NBA experience to the team, yet is still just entering his prime at 25. His ability to play multiple positions adds depth and flexibility to our roster.”
Miles came to the NBA straight from high school and because of that already has seven years of NBA experience despite just being 25. He averaged 9.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists on 38 percent shooting from the field last season for the Utah Jazz.
The wild card in the mix for the starting small forward job, Miles ability to play both wing spots may actually hurt him if the Cavs feel he's best used off the bench because of this versatility.
Who should the Cavs start at small forward?
So who starts?
While no one is expected to run away with the job once training camp begins, the early favorite for the job has to be Alonzo Gee.
Casspi will have to earn his way back to even a good share of minutes as a reserve to start the season now that Miles is on board. At 24 years of age he could still turn out to be a very good NBA player, but for now will have to work his tail off to even get a second contract in the league.
Miles ability to play shooting guard and small forward is something that coach Byron Scott will likely prefer to have at his disposal coming off the bench. Miles, being new to the team, would have to blow away the other two to win a starting job right away.
The main thing holding Gee back now is his contract situation. If he finally accepts the QO or signs a multi-year deal, his play should be enough to once again win the starting job.
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