2015 MLE Wishlist: Alonzo Gee
With free agency about a month away, we at Brooklyn’s Finest are pitching in our collective wishlist of players around the league we’d like to see the Nets sign. Let’s see here… Kevin Love, Marc Gaso- what’s that? The Nets have no cap space? Hmm. Guess it’ll just be players that Brooklyn can try and sign with the annual mid-level exception. This year’s has a first-year salary of $3.376 million. Let’s get to it.
After years of paying into the NBA’s luxury tax, the Brooklyn Nets are again reduced to just their mini, or taxpayers, mid-level exception with which to sign free agents this summer. It’ll save them sales pitches to the top tier of free agents, but should still return a valuable rotation piece to contribute to the 2015-16 team. Previous Nets signings with the mini MLE have included Mirza Teletovic in 2012 and Bojan Bogdanovic last offseason, and the team should again invest in shooting from the wing position this summer, particularly if Alan Anderson declines his player option and enters free agency. A potential target at the wing and for at least a portion of their mini mid-level exception should be Alonzo Gee, who could provide some shooting and athleticism options off the bench for the Brooklyn Nets in ‘15-16.
Gee spent last season split between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers after being included in the Arron Afflalo trade at the deadline, and saw action in 54 games overall, averaging 4.5 points and 1.7 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game on 49/37/70.1 percentages from two, three, and the free-throw line. In his 39 games with Denver he shot a career-high 41.7% from three, warranting an inclusion into the Afflalo trade, and started two games down the stretch for Portland after Wes Matthews tore his Achilles.
Gee struggled to replicate his success from the field with the Trail Blazers (47.4/27.3/50 triple-slash percentages) and didn’t last long in Terry Stotts’s rotation, racking up four-straight “Did Not Play - Coach’s Decision”s in their first-round playoff series loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. His contract status this summer might lean more towards the veteran’s minimum after his 15-game run for the Blazers, but his play in Denver revealed a player with some definite skills in scoring the basketball.
Alonzo Gee’s offensive repertoire is almost strictly (corner) three-point looks and layups or dunks. Gee took just over 10% of his 186 shot attempts last season from the mid-range area, and over 75% from within three feet of the basket or beyond the three-point line. While with Denver he converted on 45.5% of his catch-and-shoot three-point attempts, and in his six-year career he’s taken 54.4% of his three-pointers from the corners. He also enjoys getting out in transition for easy baskets, as 37.5% of his offense comes within the first six seconds of the shot clock.
That’s not to say that Gee’s a completely limited player. He’s aware of the effect that his jumper can have on an opposing defense, and isn’t afraid to upfake to draw the defender and then attack the rim. He can also handle the ball a little bit and play some pick and roll - again adhering to the threes-or-dunks philosophy - but owns nearly an identical turnover percentage (14.2) over his career as usage (16.6, per Basketball Reference).
Gee doesn’t really impact the game on defense, either, finishing 79th among all small forwards by ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus at -2.29 points per 100 possessions. That could work against him signing with Brooklyn, as an Alan Anderson departure would deprive the team of its best wing defender. The Nets would have to be pretty confident in Markel Brown’s abilities to ignore the need completely this offseason with Joe Johnson entering his age-34 season.
Still, Alonzo Gee’s baseline attack would fit well on a bench that struggled to score consistently for much of the season and often fell victim to watching Jarrett Jack launch pull-up jumpers. Assuming Bogdanovic again begins the season as the starter at the two guard and the team makes no other moves (a hypothetical, but bear with me…), a bench unit of Jack, Markel Brown, Gee, Cory Jefferson, and Mason Plumlee would be able to run with any other bench in the league. At least the non-Jack bench players, anyways, who would then theoretically feast on tip-dunks off of Jack’s pull-up jumpers.
Investing in Alonzo Gee with a multi-year deal at the full taxpayers mid-level exception would require an (extremely) optimistic view of his time with the Nuggets last season, and confidence that the 28-year old still has some upside left to realize. On a one- or two-year deal with partial guarantees, though, at half of that $3.376 million, Gee would be a nice addition to the bench, and would still allow the Nets to use the remaining MLE on another point guard (Nick Calathes, JIMMER?). It’s not exactly a max offer sheet to Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard, but Alonzo Gee could be a bench bolstering buy-low acquisition for the Brooklyn Nets this summer.