COMMENTARY | Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Cleveland Cavaliers have an opening at small forward.
Such has been the case the past three three years in Cleveland, with no accomplished candidate stepping up to claim the position. The Cavaliers have trotted out names like Jamario Moon, Joey Graham, Christian Eyenga, Jawad Williams, Ira Newble and surprisingly, none have worked out.
Now heading into the 2013-14 season, head coach Mike Brown still doesn't have a definitive answer, although the candidates are much more inspiring.
Here are the four potential players Cleveland could start at the three to begin the season:
4. Sergey Karasev
The rookie from Russia is a long shot to start, even though he's proved he may be capable of doing so.
Just 19 years of age, Karasev has played like a seasoned veteran so far this preseason, likely due to his time in the Russian league playing against grown men.
At 6 feet 7 inches, Karasev can play either wing position and actually made his first start of the preseason at shooting guard. He finished the night with 10 points on 4-7 shooting from the floor, including 2-4 from the three-point line in a 96-84 win over the Detroit Pistons.
In his first three preseason games, Karasev is knocking down 50 percent of his shots from the floor and a solid 44.4 percent from deep. Despite his early success, the Cavs will probably like to go with a veteran to start, at least for now.
3. C.J. Miles
Not really considered a strong candidate to start heading into the season, Miles has certainly made a case for himself thus far.
Through three preseason games, Miles is the Cavaliers' third-leading scorer with 12 points per game. Long thought of as just an outside shooter, Miles has been excelling by balancing his inside and outside game thus far. In his first 24 field-goal attempts, just 12 have been three-pointers. Miles has shown a nice aggressive side this preseason and is getting to the basket already more often than last year.
In three games, Miles is shooting 41.7 percent from downtown and 45.8 percent overall from the field. If he proves to Brown he can defend, we could see a surprise shake up in the starting lineup.
2. Earl Clark
Clark played for Mike Brown briefly at the beginning of last season while with the Los Angeles Lakers. Brown must have seen something he liked in the 6-10 combo forward, because the Cavaliers signed him to a two-year deal.
Defensively, Clark has the edge over all of the other candidates. He's tall, long, and mobile for his size. Last season with the Lakers, he held opposing small forwards to just a 12 PER, per 82games.com.
That being said, Clark has tried his best to shoot his way out of a starting job this preseason. In four games, Clark is shooting just 33 percent (10-30) from the field and has shown no outside shot whatsoever (1-6, 16.7 percent).
The Cavs need floor-spacers for Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters to kick out to when driving and faced with multiple defenders. Is Clark really the best option for this?
1. Alonzo Gee
Gee started all 82 games for the Cavaliers last season at small forward, for the simple fact that Cleveland didn't have anyone better.
That's not a knock on Gee. He's a hard worker, can defend multiple positions and is athletic in the open floor. Just don't ask him to create his own shot.
Gee has played in just two preseason games thus far due to a sore hamstring. In both, Brown started him but with minute restrictions of 10 and 15 in his two games, respectively. It's hard to get a read on how healthy Gee really is right now with such a small playing sample. In his second game against the Pistons, Gee missed all four of his shots and collected four personal fouls before being yanked at his minute limitation.
Gee has the experience of a starter, but does that necessarily make him the best option?
So, who should start?
While we can't decipher what's going on inside Mike Brown's shiny head, there seems to be a clear winner for the small forward battle so far this preseason.
Alonzo Gee and Earl Clark may have begun the season as the favorites, but it's C.J. Miles who's really put himself on top.
Miles is the best shooter of the group and the best complementary piece to the other starters. He helps spread the floor for the Cavs, keeping driving lanes open for Irving and Waiters. So far, he's proved to be a capable defender and has earned a starting spot to begin the season.
Has Cleveland finally found its answer at small forward?
Maybe, maybe not, but at least Ira Newble isn't an option anymore.
Greg Swartz is a Northeast Ohio native who covers the NBA on the Yahoo Contributor Network and Bleacher Report. You can find a collection of his articles here and follow him for more Cleveland Cavaliers and NBA news.
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