How Much Is Tony Allen Worth to the Memphis Grizzlies?

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIMarch 26, 2013

MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 13:  Tony Allen #9 of the Memphis Grizzlies reaches for a steal against DeAndre Jordan #6 of the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on May 13, 2012 in Memphis, Tennessee.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tony Allen is a precious player to the Memphis Grizzlies. He may attract a big salary in the offseason, as mentioned by The Commercial Appeal. That likely won't come from the Grizzlies—not with their salary commitments.

Allen looks to be an attractive face on the free-agent market this summer, as Sports Illustrated ranked him the No. 16 free agent for 2013.

His status is solely due to his defensive stature. Allen allows 99 points per 100 possessions. He's second in the league in steals rate and was ninth last season. In 2011-12, he received All-Defensive First-Team honors.

Allen, who averages 7.9 points per game and shoots 27 percent from three-point range on his career, won't attract any attention for what he does with the ball in his hands.

Teams that are interested in revamping their defenses would love to grab him. He transformed the Grizzlies' defense upon arrival. According to the Wall Street Journal, he schooled coaches and general manager Chris Wallace on defense.

Within two years of Allen's arrival in Memphis, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol dropped their defensive ratings by 10 points.

The Grizzlies would want to keep him to ensure a smooth transition to a future core group.

Indeed, one must compare what Allen might be able to earn to what other defensive specialists have earned past age 30. Bruce Bowen, Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace earned bigger salaries after passing 30 than before.

However, Bowen and Rodman were already on teams with established offensive stars. Bowen was surrounded by Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Rodman had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Wallace's case was more comparable to that of Allen. Big Ben joined a Chicago Bulls team that had a few budding offensive players in Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich.

However, no educated observer would have claimed that any of the "Baby Bulls" would become the ferocious scorers that Jordan, Pippen or Duncan were. Deng couldn't drive to the basket, Hinrich wasn't a high-volume shooter and Gordon wasn't capable of taking over a game.

Similarly, Allen isn't playing alongside a cast full of superstar scorers. Zach Randolph doesn't score as much as he used to and isn't shooting as well as in prior years. Randolph is averaging 14 shots per 36 minutes, 2.3 fewer than his career average. He's shooting 46.6 percent from the field, 0.7 percent less than his career rate.

Marc Gasol is a true offensive phenomenon. However, as Grantland's Jordan Conn explained, Gasol's greatness on that end is subtle since he doesn't score like a stud.

Rudy Gay's 17.2 points per game before being traded to the Raptors still stands as the team lead, and he was the guy forever on the cusp of becoming a star scorer.

Even if the Grizz would like to drop some $7 million on the leader of the "grit 'n' grind," it wouldn't be well spent. They'll spend over the salary cap to keep him, Jerryd Bayless and perhaps Austin Daye (both of whom have options). Then, they'd need spare cash to chase a scorer while staying under the luxury tax threshold.

That the 31-year-old could command the $9 million that Rodman received at age 35, or the $16 million Wallace took home when he was 32 years old is preposterous, considering the Grizzlies' situation and the different salary cap climate.

A reasonable offer for Allen from Memphis would range between $3 and $5 million.

A few teams might challenge them for Allen's services. But they'd need established scorers around him to keep the ball out of his hands. The Golden State Warriors, which are 14th in defensive rating, could use him as a backup. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are budding scorers, but both allow 107 points per 100 possessions.

Whether the Warriors would pay more than the Grizzlies just to put him on the bench is highly questionable.

Therein lies the issue. His defense changed the Grizz. How much could it change the Warriors or another team after his prime?

Thus, Allen's value might be greatest in Memphis.