The Memphis Grizzlies have thrown their hat in the ring in hopes of signing Ray Allen. Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley told The Commercial Appeal that he'll allow general manager Chris Wallace to use the full mid-level exception and go over the luxury tax threshold to try to acquire Allen.
Heisley said that he believes the Grizzlies would be a great team for a player like Allen.
"We're on the cusp of competing for a championship and now is the time to make a strong push," he said. "I think anyone would be interested in looking at this team right now.
Some may believe that Heisley is off his rocker in saying that the Grizzlies would be nearly as good an option for Allen as the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat, which ESPN reported to be interested in him. However, those who dismiss the Grizzlies' chances of acquiring Allen underestimate the strength of their roster and their title chances.
Following is a short list of reasons why the Grizzlies will attract Allen to sign with them.
The Memphis Grizzlies are legitimate title contenders, and it's not just because the players and the owner say they are. The Grizzlies may not have a top-10 player like the Heat, but they have top-five players at center (Marc Gasol), small forward (Rudy Gay) and point guard (Mike Conley).
Also they have a dominant rebounder in Zach Randolph and one of the three best perimeter defenders in Tony Allen.
Led by Allen, the Grizzlies have the most piercing defense in the NBA. They've led the league in steals and turnovers forced each of the last two seasons. In 2011-12, they had five players average at least a steal per game.
With such a strong lineup and a strong defense that put them in title contention, the Grizzlies have a good environment for Allen to enter.
Allen wouldn't be able to find such a situation in Boston, where the title chances have disappeared. He, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are a few years past their prime, and they can't combine to win another title at this point.
A small-market team like the Grizzlies usually aren't in a position of strength when competing in free agency for a player of Allen's caliber.
However, the Grizzlies are in a good position in this race. They'll offer $5 million per year for two years. As the aforementioned ESPN article mentioned, the Heat can offer Allen a mini-mid-level exception of $3 million for one yearm and the Celtics will offer $6 million per year for two years.
The Celtics can offer more than the other teams because they have Allen's Bird rights.
While the Celtics can offer the 37-year-old $1 million more than the Grizzlies, their marginal advantage in monetary offerings doesn't make up for the marked disadvantage they have in title potential. As discussed in the previous slide, the Grizzlies are relatively early in their title window, whereas the Celtics' title window is long gone.
Allen surely knows the possibilities with the teams in contention for his services. Both the Grizzlies and Heat can win championships. Meanwhile, the Celtics can't make it past the second round of the playoffs unless they catch a break like they did this year with the Chicago Bulls' early exit.
The Memphis Grizzlies will, in all likelihood, will have a stronger roster for Allen to join. As mentioned in the first slide, they have marquee players at four of five positions in their starting lineup and a premier defender at the other position.
That's a more complete lineup than what the Heat and Celtics will have. The Heat lack a decent center and a good point guard. Mario Chalmers is at best a middle-of-the-road point guard. Dexter Pittman and Joel Anthony are uninspiring centers.
The Celtics have two starters currently under contract for next season, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. According to the Boston Herald, Kevin Garnett is going to sign a three-year deal to return to Boston. If the Celtics can lure Allen back, that would make four, but they would still have a gaping hole at center.
The Grizzlies look to have an advantage on the bench. The Grizzlies have four bench players under contract and would have five with the signing of draftee Tony Wroten. At least two of their contracted bench players, Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter, will play significant roles.
The Heat have four bench players under contract for next season, and would have five with draftee Justin Hamilton. However, Norris Cole could be the only decent player off the bench for the Heat. James Jones and Shane Battier likely won't be effective during the regular season.
Allen's team of the last five years has four bench players under contract (seven with their draftees). But only Avery Bradley and perhaps their two first-rounders, Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger, seem like they'll be significant in the rotation.
The Heat will have a much tougher time filling out a roster with decent players because of how much money the organization has committed for next season.
Currently, the Celtics have a decent amount of money available, but with so many holes to fill, it's hard to tell if the team would be deep enough to support a deep run in the playoffs and give players like Garnett and Allen enough rest.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies will be able to fill out their roster by re-signing restricted free agents Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur and unrestricted free agent Hamed Haddadi. The Grizzlies will be able to match any offer for Arthur and Speights and could get Haddadi to return for a minimum contract.
While the Grizzlies may not be able to offer Allen a starting job, the franchise would be able to welcome him to a solid roster.
The Grizzlies would be able to enable Ray Allen to score a good number of points while playing in a low-pressure environment.
Both Boston and Miami are among the biggest NBA markets. LeBron James and company have been the most scrutinized team in the league over the last two seasons, and they'll be monitored even more closely now that they've won a title.
If he decides to play with the Heat, Allen will face the scrutiny that the other stars on the team face, although not to the same extent as James.
The Celtics are also a very closely monitored team in the national scope. After all, this is the most celebrated franchise in the NBA.
In its latest incarnation, the franchise of Bob Cousy and Bill Russell has seen its squad have national commentators watching every step of their descent from title team to a corroding crew of aging stars.
Meanwhile, the national sports media has largely turned a blind eye on Memphis, which is one of the smallest media markets. Mostly, the franchise has been occasional prey to ravenous rumormongers purporting possible movement of guys like Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay whenever something surfaces.
As far as actual basketball is concerned, the national sports media doesn't pay much attention to the Grizzlies. During the season, a passing mention might be made if Gay throws down a huge dunk or if Marreese Speights gets hot.
During the playoffs, far more attention is set on the stars of the other team, such as when commentators spent much more time talking about Chris Paul and Blake Griffin than Grizzlies players.
As such, Ray Allen could get through a season with the Grizzlies without too much pressure. He'd be able to focus on scoring and staying in condition without having his every mistake analyzed on ESPN.
This could lead to a successful tenure for Allen. He could serve as a sixth man, rotating with Tony Allen, just as O.J. Mayo did. Ray Allen could come in for the 30-year-old defensive stopper and score double figures while playing 27 minutes per game.
Allen could score as much in Memphis off the bench as he'd be able to in Miami in a starting role. That's because the Grizzlies run a more balanced offensive attack than the Heat. Also, Memphis has less demanding shooters than the Heat.
He would be able to do this with greater ease because he'd be playing in a smaller market that sees less incentive from the national media. That would be an assuring climate for the 10-time All-Star.