Pros and Cons of Miami Heat Starting Ray Allen
Since the "superteam" phenomenon began in the summer of 2007, Ray Allen is the first high-profile player to voluntarily join a franchise that already had three established superstars.
Instead of re-signing with the Boston Celtics this summer (a superteam in their own right), Allen decided to take less money to join the Miami Heat—a move that only strengthened the squad that hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy last June.
Even at 37 years old, Allen is still one of the best shooters in the NBA, and the allure of adding him to a starting lineup that boasts LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is undeniably strong. And while Allen has already agreed to defer to the Heat's All-Star trio and come off of the bench, Miami could still be moved to jury rig its lineup in order to put its four best players on the floor at the same time.
So, as the start of the regular season steadily approaches, here are the pros and cons of the Miami Heat starting Ray Allen next year.
Pro: Few Opponents Can Match Up Effectively
If Ray Allen ends up being one of the five players that goes out for the opening tip next season, Miami's starting lineup would be on par with (if not better than) that of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Opponents had difficulty defending the Heat as-is, and now with Allen spotting up behind the three-point line, 29 other head coaches will be spending long nights trying to figure out how to slow down an explosive Miami attack.
Few teams have the personnel to match up effectively with the Heat, and as we saw in the NBA Finals this past summer, Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra is extremely adept at exploiting mismatches when they occur.
So while it would be nice to have an All-Star caliber player coming off of the bench, a starting lineup with four proven scorers may be too tempting to pass up.
Con: Not an Ideal Fit
Although they have different playing styles, both Allen and Dwyane Wade are natural shooting guards. And as such, if they're on the court at the same time, one of them will be playing out of position.
If Miami is insistent on making that happen, the most logical starting lineup would be to have Allen and Wade at the 2 and 3 spots with James and Bosh playing the 4 and 5 positions, respectively. As appealing as that may seem on the surface, the Heat would have problems guarding many of the league's athletic small forwards.
Miami could also choose to go with Wade at the point, which would allow Allen, James and Bosh to play at their natural positions. That move, however, would relegate Mario Chalmers—the team's best lead guard and most prolific three-point shooter—to a reserve role.
Pro: Will Add Much-Needed Perimeter Shooting
As dominant as Miami's starting five appears to be at times on offense, they could use quite a bit of help on the perimeter.
The Heat knocked down a mere 5.8 three-pointers per game in 2011-12 (20th in the NBA), and the team's two best long-range bombers—Mike Miller and James Jones—are little more than situational role players. Allen, meanwhile, shot a career-best 45.3 percent from beyond the arc last season, and has the potential to be even better alongside James, Wade and Bosh.
Mario Chalmers can personally attest to the trickle-down effect that Miami's "Three Kings" can have on one's game. In his first three NBA seasons, Chalmers never shot better than 42 percent. As a full-time starter last year, Chalmers shot close to 45 percent from the floor, and converted nearly 39 percent of his three-point attempts.
Con: Extended Minutes May Take Their Toll
Although it may seem like Ray Allen will play forever, he will be 37 years old when the season begins in October. Father Time is undefeated, and as we saw last spring, the effects of more than 42,000 NBA minutes are beginning to take a toll on the 16-year shooting guard.
Since Miami will have no problems rolling though the regular season next year, the team might be better off limiting Allen's minutes as much as it can until the playoffs.
Even while saving Allen's legs for an extended postseason run, the Heat won't lose all that much production.
In the eight games where Allen came off of the bench during the 2012 playoffs, he averaged 10.5 points. In the 10 postseason games that he started (and played significantly more minutes), Allen averaged 10.8 points.
Pro: Will Space the Floor for James and Wade
Since opposing defenses will be forced to respect Ray Allen out on the perimeter, Wade and James will have plenty of room to operate in the half-court set. Both players are extremely difficult to guard one-on-one, and the mere presence of Allen means that the two players are set to face fewer double-teams next season.
The Miami fast break (which ranked 19th in the NBA in 2011-12) should be markedly improved as well next season. And while Mario Chalmers made 101 three-pointers last year, the Heat's addition of the best three-point shooter in league history changes Miami's offense quite a bit.
"He's a Hall of Fame-type catch-and-shoot player," said Spoelstra when asked about Allen (h/t USA Today*). "I don't want to totally change what we do, but that's a great element to have, that type of weapon."
*Spoelstra quote from Jorge Sedano Show on Miami's WQAM, as quoted by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Con: Reserve Unit Will Continue to Lack Depth
One of the major weaknesses of the Heat is that the team is overly reliant on its starters to carry the load on offense. Miami's reserves scored a paltry 24.6 points per game last season (27th in the NBA), and their best bench player—Norris Cole—averaged less than seven points per night.
In Allen, the Heat have a bonafide double-digit scoring sixth man who, in a bench role, would give Erik Spoelstra a great deal of flexibility in his rotations. At this stage in his career, Allen is more than comfortable embracing a reserve role, and realizes that it makes little sense for Miami to force fit him into the starting lineup.
"I have to make it work on the floor with my teammates," said Allen at his introductory press conference. "I always said whether you start or come off the bench, the best compliment is who you finish the game up with."
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