The crown jewel of last week’s trade was Arron Afflalo, a man who had been linked to the Blazers for weeks in rumor after rumor, becoming a household name even before the trade was publicized. The second player was Alonzo Gee, a man who many had never heard of and an assumed "throw in" to make the salary or roster sizes work. Lucky for us, Olshey and company are more diligent then we are and they snagged a useful nugget from Denver.
Most of that usefulness will not come on the offensive end where Gee and Afflalo could not be more different. On one hand, Arron Afflalo probably has more confidence in his mid-range jumper than his own mother. No matter where he is on the court, he’s searching for it, looking for an opportunity to spin, pull up, or just curl into his sweet spot 15-18 feet from the rim. Gee, on the other hand, has never seen a mid-range jumper he liked to the point I think he might be allergic. Only about 10% of his shots come between 10 feet and the three point line, a career low and one of the lowest numbers I’ve ever seen from a guard. You’d think he played his whole career with the Rockets with a shot chart like that.
The contrasts don’t stop there as Afflalo and Gee are having opposite experiences from behind the three point line and at the rim. While Arron has struggled through one of the worst shooting seasons of his career, Alonzo keeps knocking ‘em down from deep, stroking a solid 42% of his three pointers this season. That would be third best on the Blazers (behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Meyers Leonard - what a weird year), an exciting prospect if he wasn’t a career 33% shooter. But hey, now we can say there’s at least one guard on the Blazers having a good shooting year.
His hot shooting is even more impressive because he’s having a career year inside as well. Gee is making 65% of his shots within three feet and taking more than he ever has. With literally no mid-range game to speak of, Gee’s drives have an all or nothing quality to them. Either he’s gonna get there or someone’s gonna get him with no in-between. When he does get cut off, Gee will turn to a spin move or make a hurried pass to a teammate who often looks surprised to catch the ball. It’s a whirling and frenetic experience that reminds me of a cross between Will Barton and Thomas Robinson - two of the players he was traded for.
Luckily, Gee manages to control the chaos enough to be a slightly more consistent and effective player. It doesn’t hurt that his thick build and brute strength help him turn bad situations into decent results. He only turns the ball over on 13% of his possessions, right on par with Damian Lillard and better than Nicolas Batum, and he scores 0.871 points per possession in the half court, hovering around league average. He may not take a lot of shots, but when he decides to go for it, it usually doesn’t end in disaster.
This paints a picture of a player who can adequately space the floor on the weak side and attack closeouts when the ball is swung his way. These are the bare minimums for playing the wing position in the NBA and Gee comes out as adequate on the offensive end. The main concern is if he gets a little too gung-ho breaking up the flow of the offense and taking the ball out of the hands of our more polished scorers. As long as he stays in his lane, he shouldn’t torpedo the entire offense when he’s out there.
That’s enough to see the court when you play the tough, physical, and consistent type of defense Gee reportedly prides himself on. He might be the most physically impressive player on the Blazers now as "barrel chested" hardly seems to do his physique justice. He couples that upper body strength with quick hands, long arms and good footwork coming close to the ideal physical profile for a defender at his position. These physical gifts allow him to defend one through stretch four and it will be nice to have a more physical wing to throw at players like Kawhi Leonard or Rudy Gay.
Blazers fans should be especially excited because his strongest defensive attribute is the ability to get through screens, a weakness for the Blazers at times. Not only does Synergy Sports rank him in the 88th percentile overall, no one in the entire league has defended as many pick and rolls as Alonzo Gee and forced the offense into a higher turnover percentage on those plays.
If he gets even a half way decent hedge from Kenneth Faried, Lillard probably can’t get that shot off. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum shared the title of "Most Disruptive Defender" during our Little Things Awards but Gee might be coming to take it away from them.
This is particularly fitting because he gambles more often than any of our other wings. Normally, this is a bad thing but Gee’s feel for the game is impressive. In all the film I watched, his timing and disruptive length usually created good results for the defense rather than breakdowns. It will be interesting to see how this fits in with the Blazers' more conservative scheme but used correctly, in the right doses and situations, Gee could be an important change of pace off the bench.
That’s the important thing to remember with this acquisition. Even though Gee might not play very much, he’s a useful tool for Stotts to have in his back pocket. Look for him to play against some of the more physical wings in the league and to come in when the Blazers are playing flat or the opponent is on a roll. You can never have too many energy guys on your bench. The Blazers traded away two beloved guys who fit that description and it looks like they may have gotten at least one back.