Breaking Down How Ray Allen Will Be Utilized in Miami Heat's Offense
There was a point in the not-so-distant past when Ray Allen was the big acquisition of the summer—in no small part because his arrival in Miami signaled that the best team in the NBA still had room to grow. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat aren't going anywhere, and with Allen coming in to supplement an already solid group of perimeter shooters (and Wade and Chris Bosh back in good health), the champs figure to only be more formidable in the season to come.
And luckily for Allen, there shouldn't be all that much work ahead in the way of offensive adjustment. Over the last several seasons, Allen's role in the Celtics offense had been simplified. He may have been imported to Boston as a third star alongside Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, but by the end of his Celtic tenure, Allen wasn't left to create for himself all that often and instead benefited from the three skilled playmakers with whom he so often shared the court.
Some of that shift can be credited to the rise of Rajon Rondo, but just as much is linked to Allen's slight decline. Allen remains an immortal and immaculate shooter, but his previously dynamic nature has diminished along with his general athleticism.
It's not a terribly unique plight, but it is an inescapable one. Try as Allen might, even his rigorous preparation and maintenance couldn't prevent the 37-year-old from moving like an exceptionally remarkable and well-kept 37-year-old. Allen hasn't exactly fallen off of the plateau of NBA effectiveness, but his performance has trended ever so slightly downward as the game inches past him.
In Boston, that translated to more and more spot-up and curl screen opportunities for Allen as his time there went on—both to prevent Allen from over-extending himself and to maximize his shot-for-shot efficiency. Even as recently as last season Allen was a phenomenally efficient scorer, as evidenced by his outrageous 1.04 points per used possession mark, according to Synergy Sports Technology. Considering how much of a mess the Celtics offense was on the whole, that's a tremendous accomplishment—and one that bodes well for Allen in the Heat's eighth-ranked O.
The specifics of Allen's usage lean on how exactly the Heat choose to orient their players next season from a positional standpoint, but he's certain to be the lead in Miami's cast of sliding perimeter shooters. On some possessions he may have little more to do than wait in the corner and stretch the floor, but the Heat's perimeter marksmen—likely by design—do a particularly good job of swiveling around the arc to leave over-helping opponents high and dry.
Miami won't need Allen to handle the ball all that often, and isn't likely to work Allen through the same gauntlet of screens that the Celtics so often did. But even an incredibly simplistic utilization gives the Heat a very clear shooting upgrade over the other options in-house; Allen's 45.3 percent mark from three last season mirrors that of Mike Miller, but Allen provides a far more mobile and—his own injuries considered—a far healthier option. Plus, as the Celtics found out for themselves since acquiring Allen, the mere act of running the league-leader in three-point makes around an off-ball screen forces several defenders to tilt in his direction, making him a far more influential player than Miller in terms of off-ball impact alone.
Park Allen on the perimeter, give him a pick to work with and let the results speak for themselves. Miami stands to gain plenty just by having one of the league's finest shooters on the floor to occupy an opposing defense's attention and thought, not to mention chip in crucial and efficient scoring for a team that still depends on its three star players so heavily.
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