Can Ray Allen Succeed in Sixth Man Role with Miami Heat?
In what could possibly be the end of a storied Hall of Fame-worthy career, Ray Allen may just be coming off the bench on his final team.
Presuming that the 37-year-old Allen will end his career at the end of 40, which is the time his contract with the Miami Heat runs out, he'll most likely still be featured in a sixth man role. It's no secret to Ray that he will be coming off the bench for the 2012-13 season, and probably, the two seasons after, and he has accepted the role.
However, coming off the bench in Boston was something that Allen did not enjoy all too well. In fact, he raised an issue over it to head coach Doc Rivers, who benched Allen near the end of the season due to nagging injuries. Rivers went with the younger Avery Bradley up until the Celtics' series against the Miami Heat, when Bradley would sit out due to shoulder surgery.
Allen was on-and-off in his stints off the bench. In his first postseason appearance off the bench in Game 3 of the Celtics' first-round series, he would finish with 13 points on 12 shots in 37 minutes. The trend of starter minutes continued throughout, as Allen would receive 30 minutes or more in four out of eight games he came off the pine.
His best moment off the bench came in his third game in his new role, as he scored 19 points and shot 5-of-11 from deep in a 14-point win against Indiana.
While Allen had a few off games, it'd be easier to put that on the ailments he dealt with all year. Even when he started once, Bradley was put on injured reserve, Allen still struggled with his shot and shot 50 percent or worse in every single game he started, with his top scoring performance being 16 points on 16 shots.
It was obvious to spot. All of Allen's misses from outside were well short, making it apparent that his legs weren't quite under him. He was well below his career averages in nearly every game of the postseason, bench and starting stints included.
Allen shot 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from beyond the arc in the postseason, as opposed to the 46 percent shooting from the field and career-high 45 percent shooting from deep. Injuries had played a role in shortening his season to only 46 games, including forcing him to sit out the final nine games of the regular season and the first two games of the playoffs.
Ray wasn't ready to come back, and it shows in his shooting numbers. The Celtics were looking to make another championship run and were low on options at the 2-guard, so they brought Allen back a little too early. His shooting numbers are a reflection of just how hurt he still was from the injuries that had ravaged him all season.
Basically, don't put Allen's poor shooting numbers on coming off the bench, because he was just as poor a shooter when in the starting lineup.
It would be ridiculous to believe that Allen's shot and rhythm is going to change due to simply moving to the bench. This won't be like last year where Ray is unhappy with his role and also dealing with a nagging injury that's causing him to sporadically miss games throughout the year. With a new team surrounding him, Allen should only feel motivated to prove that he was right in his decision.
Allen is all about routine. If you have seen his shooting exercises, you would immediately recognize how intense his work ethic is. Allen has made shooting a religion, and he's the god, the priest, the clergy and its most devout follower.
Ray isn't the type of player who needs to get his shots up in order to get into a rhythm. He can get into one whether he's coming off the bench or in a starting role. As long as he's healthy and receiving his shots in rhythm, he's going to get off a good shot. He relies entirely on his form, and he never needs to change it.
The Heat didn't sign a premier three-point threat with the idea that he's going to need several shots in order to get into a rhythm. Allen knew he would be coming off the bench when he signed with Miami, and he's already mentally adjusting to the role before training camp has even started. He knows he'll be in this role over the next three years and will be expected to perform.
Plus, having him come off the bench works for the Heat just as well as it would if he started, especially in the second-unit lineup.
Last season, the rotation featured LeBron James finishing out the first and third quarters. A large problem of that lineup was the Heat not getting enough support for James. With Shane Battier, Norris Cole and Udonis Haslem all going through slumps, James didn't stand a chance in a lineup that was inferior to what he played with in Cleveland.
With Allen in the lineup following Wade's trip to the bench, the Heat can rely on some consistency. That was another problem the Heat faced countless times last season. There was no consistency at all from the bench. As convincing as Mike Miller's three-point percentage was, it hardly meant anything when he was hobbling end-to-end and missing games at a sporadic rate.
As I've stated before in so many previous articles on the subject, the Miami Heat will expect Ray Allen to be what Mike Miller was supposed to be upon signing him in the summer of 2010.
The Heat expected Miller to be their primary perimeter shooter. He was meant to thrive off the influence of the "Big Three" and to be ready for the kick-outs off of drives. His 48 percent shooting percentage from beyond the arc told the story—Miller is an incredibly consistent shooter, and it shows in the 40 percent he was shooting for his career prior to joining the Heat.
Miller's status has been up in the air since training camp in 2010 started. He's been constantly hurt with ailments ranging from finger injuries to a concussion. Because of those injuries, he missed 41 games in his first year with the team and 27 this past season due to recovery from a sports hernia surgery—an ankle injury and recurring back pain.
His status is uncertain, although we can guarantee he won't be retiring.
Ray Allen is going to be Mike Miller. He's going to be the primary perimeter shooter who will be ready and waiting for the ball to get into his hands and to immediately shoot it upon the catch.
Allen is a player who has been doing this his whole career. Out of 6,788 three-pointers he's attempted over his 16-year career, he's converted a staggering 2,718, good enough for a career shooting percentage of 40 percent. It's doubtful to believe that a change in his role, which is going to allow him to conserve his energy, will drastically affect Allen's shooting touch.
He has shot below 36 percent from three-point land on one occasion, and that came in 1999 when he shot .356. Since then, he has shot tremendously and has even shot career highs over the past season, including shooting 45 percent in 2011 and then topping it with a 46 percent rate the year after.
What's there to believe that Allen won't thrive as the Heat's sixth man? He's been starting his whole career. He's a 16-year veteran and one of the smartest players in this league; he shouldn't have that much trouble adjusting to coming off the bench and ending up playing nearly 30 minutes per game.
He's already made the sacrifice of joining the team and knowingly set to come off the bench. As smooth and rhythmic a shooter as Allen is, it's an insult to his career's legacy to believe that he suddenly won't thrive in a role off the bench that he's willingly taking on.
This is a player who has been perfecting the same stroke for decades. Simply because he's No. 2 on the depth chart for the first time in his career doesn't mean that he's not going to be able to thrive in a new role. Once he comes off the bench, he'll know exactly where he is and what to do.
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