Why Jason Terry Is Better Suited for Sixth Man Role Than Ray Allen Ever Was
That is, with as much as a Sixth Man of the Year award and a championship with the Dallas Mavericks would suggest.
Ray Allen, on the other hand, isn't quite so well-adapted to such a role, if only because he lacks the requisite experience. Allen spent nearly the entirety of his Hall of Fame career as a sharpshooting starter prior to the latter portion of the 2011-12 season, when he succumbed to an ankle injury that opened the door for Avery Bradley's breakout with the Boston Celtics.
It's no wonder, then, that Allen didn't take so well to his demotion when it was thrust upon him. He was a quiet, routine-oriented veteran attempting to adapt to an entirely new role in his 16th NBA season while hobbling around on a bum ankle.
What's more, a move to the bench might've been just another onerous straw on the weary back of Boston's most oppressed proverbial camel. In Allen's mind, he'd been shown little gratitude by the organization for his integral role in the C's revival since 2007.
Unless, of course, anyone thinks being dangled as trade bait, forced to the pine and shoved aside to allow Rajon Rondo to assume a leadership role all count as expressions of gratitude.
The point being, Jesus Shuttlesworth was bound to take his talents to South Beach this summer, long before JET landed in Beantown.
And even if Ray had opted to stay with the Celtics, he wouldn't have been as fit for the reserve gig for which he was likely destined, as Terry will be.
To be sure, Jason Terry is not Ray Allen's "replacement." Regardless of what Boston's plans were for Terry at the time it landed his signature, his skill set and demeanor set him apart from the man whose shoes many will be expecting him to fill.
Truth be told, Terry, like Allen, is a deadly shooter with range that extends well beyond the three-point line. However, Terry's three-point accuracy over the last five years (36.9 percent) and for his career (38 percent) pales in comparison to the numbers Allen posted after joining the Celtics (40.9 percent) and during his illustrious stint in the NBA (40 percent).
Of course, this shouldn't come as a shock to anyone's system. Allen is the league's all-time three-point king, while Terry, proficient in his own right, is merely mortal from behind the arc.
In that regard, Allen would seem to fit the bill of a key role player off the bench quite perfectly. Father Time and Mother Nature have degraded his ability to handle the ball and attack the basket. However, those dueling forces have left Allen's sweet shooting stroke and ability to drain looks off screens intact, so long as his minutes are managed carefully.
But the C's need more than just another spot-up shooter on their bench, and have for some time. Their situation at backup point guard has been abysmal since Rondo's ascent to stardom, with Keyon Dooling, Nate Robinson and even Stephon Marbury among those who've auditioned for the job.
And failed (miserably), if Rondo's perpetually preposterous workload is any indication.
What's Boston's needed, then, is someone who can competently and confidently run the offense in Rondo's stead. That's a task that Terry—who played the point during his days with the Atlanta Hawks and has averaged 4.7 assists per game for his career—not only should be up for, but also in which he should succeed.
Only now that Allen's gone and Bradley's on the mend from dual shoulder surgeries do JET's skills as a scorer and shooter off the ball become essential to Boston's cause. The C's would be foolish to try to fit Terry's square peg into the round hole of a role that Allen left behind, though that hasn't stopped JET from conducting his own reconnaissance on the matter. As he told Greg Payne of ESPNBoston.com (h/t Rob Mahoney):
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I have been watching film and watching Ray Allen, the way he maneuvers and works off screens.
I believe in [Celtics head coach] Doc [Rivers]' system. He'll have me do some of those things, so curling the three, that's a tough shot, it's off balance. And that's just one that I will add.
Indeed, it'll be tough for Terry to adjust to running and shooting off screens with anything close to Allen's proficiency. Ray fashioned a first-ballot-worthy resume of doing just that for the better part of two decades. And the C's, for their part, would be loath to remove what had been such an integral part of their offense in its entirety simply because Allen is no longer there to execute it.
But the Celtics certainly won't mind if Terry isn't up to Allen's standards in this regard, so long as he's at least passable. JET brings so many other skills to the table—driving to the basket, distributing the ball, initiating the offense, operating in the pick-and-roll, etc.—that failing to imitate Ray Allen to a tee shouldn't matter much in the grand scheme of things.
Which sixth man will have the better 2012-13 season?
Because, with the direction in which the C's had already been shifting last season, even Ray wouldn't have been able to play himself to the same degree had he not joined the Miami Heat in July. Avery Bradley's emergence as a lockdown perimeter defender, competent shooter and generally viable starter paved the way for Boston to reconsider Ray's role, if not reshape it entirely.
Now that it'll be Terry, and not Allen, stepping in, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers will have more leeway with which to re-imagine what that role will be. He's already decided that Terry will come off the bench behind Courtney Lee to start the 2012-13 season, even as Bradley continues his recovery.
For Terry, such a designation is not only acceptable, but expected. He came to Beantown anticipating that he'd be utilized as a "super sub," much as he was in Big D, and would likely have no qualms with doing so despite the opportunity for competition in the starting five.
As for Allen, he never seemed to care for the demotion in the first place. It's difficult, then, to imagine him taking well to it again, be it from the get-go or once Bradley returned.
Ironically enough, Ray will be the sixth man in Miami, backing up Dwyane Wade at shooting guard and serving as the defending champion's newest and most decorated marksman.
It won't be long before we see Terry and Allen filling their respective niches on the same floor—the Celtics and the Heat will open the regular season against one another on October 30th.
May the best sixth man win.
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