Best Potential Landing Spots for Free Agent Ray Allen If He Delays Retirement

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 16, 2014

Best Potential Landing Spots for Free Agent Ray Allen If He Delays Retirement

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Ray Allen is missing something these days, which sounds strange to say about a guy whose career has been marked by unparalleled long-distance accuracy.

    It's not shots the NBA's all-time three-point king is missing, though; it's a job.

    Heading into his age-39 season, Allen is a free agent adrift, drawing interest from a handful of teams looking for marksmanship on the cheap as he contemplates retirement as an alternative to carrying on.

    According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, Allen is giving serious thought to hanging it up, though opponents will likely continue suffering cold sweats and nervous ticks whenever they glance toward the right corner long after he's gone.

    Back in May, Allen wondered aloud about his career mortality, per Spears: "Do I want to get to the point where you tell me, 'Look man, you ain't looking good out there?' Do you want to get to that point and people start saying that about you?"

    Though he's not quite to that point, it's clear Allen doesn't have much time left. And in his final go-round (if there's going to be one at all), you can bet he'll try to maximize his title chances.

    So, in the spirit of a marksman who was always ridiculously prepared (seriously, Allen's pregame prep is the stuff of legend), let's make sure we're equally ready for any eventuality that might play out for Allen in free agency.

    Assuming the 18-year veteran doesn't call it quits, here's a rundown of the contenders who might look to land a little ace marksmanship on the cheap.

Houston Rockets

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    We can't start discussing landing spots with unfounded speculation; that comes later.

    So for the first potential Allen destination, we've got the Houston Rockets, a club the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen tweeted was pursuing Allen in the aftermath of LeBron James' return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Houston lost Chandler Parsons to the Dallas Mavericks when it failed to match a hefty offer sheet, but Trevor Ariza is in town on a reasonable four-year deal to replace the perimeter void at small forward. Unfortunately, as the Rockets made moves to clear space in advance of what they hoped would be Chris Bosh's arrival, they lost some valuable bench contributors in Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.

    Granted, Allen's skill set isn't one that compensates for the absence of Lin's facilitation or Asik's interior defense. But Houston is now simply short on reliable bodies off the bench, and it's hard to ignore how well a dead-eye sniper like Allen could fit in with the Rockets as a reserve.

    Houston attempted 26.6 threes per game last season, the most in the league, per For a team that loves its triples, Allen would make a ton of sense.

    And even though Houston isn't the contender it would have been with Bosh and Parsons in the starting lineup, it remains one of the West's most dangerous teams. Plus, Ariza's terrific perimeter defense would allow the Rockets to hide Allen on the weakest available wing matchup whenever he was on the floor.

    Feigen termed Houston's chances of acquiring Allen a fitting "long shot," but there's a lot to like about this potential pairing for both parties.

Miami Heat

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    Since James' departure, the Miami Heat have been gradually getting the rest of the band back together.

    Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen and Mario Chalmers all signed on for another tour in South Beach, and though James won't be around to lead them, Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger are aboard as free-agent additions to pitch in.

    Allen, an NBA creature of habit if ever there was one, might simply consider the quality of life, solid roster and, above all, familiarity of Miami and decide he'd like to give it another go with his old team.

    Realistically, the Heat aren't going to be title contenders in the near future. And since Allen's age means he doesn't have a distant future (at least in terms of NBA basketball), it might not be worth it to him to spend his final years on a team that figures to merely be competitive.

    Still, Miami needs someone to stretch the floor as much as ever, and Allen proved in his two seasons with the Heat that he can definitely do that. There should be mutual interest here.

Washington Wizards

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    Maybe this one's a little outside the box, especially considering the chilly relationship between Allen and new Washington Wizards small forward Paul Pierce. But if you think about what Washington needs and what Allen can provide, there's a lot to like about an Allen-Wizards marriage.

    For starters, Washington lost Ariza and won't get Martell Webster on the court for another few months while he recovers from back surgery. John Wall, for all his improvements as a player, still shot just 35 percent from long range last season.

    In other words, outside of Bradley Beal and Pierce, Washington is a little thin when it comes to perimeter shooting.

    Imagine Beal learning the finer points of balance, utilizing screens and positioning from Allen. Picture the aging master teaching the promising young pupil how to practice with a purpose. Intriguing, no?

    Nobody's saying Beal needs any kind of extra push from a veteran. By all accounts he's a perfectly fine worker who'll most likely mature into a star on his own. But what if Allen, once a far more versatile offensive player, could impart some of his tricks of the trade to Beal?

    For that possibility alone, the Wizards should be considering Allen as a veteran pickup.

    Plus, this Washington team fancies itself an up-and-comer in the East, possibly ready to make a run for the conference finals. Pierce will be a fantastic leader in that endeavor, but Allen has been through a battle or two himself.

    If the two former Boston Celtics could see past the differences that arose when Allen skipped out on Beantown, Washington could reap the benefits.

Dallas Mavericks

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    We all know where veteran wings go to prolong their careers, don't we?

    Vince Carter stretched his post-prime playing days much further than anyone would have ever expected, turning himself into a rangy defender and surprisingly capable pick-and-roll operator with the Dallas Mavericks. He's since moved on to the Memphis Grizzlies, but Vinsanity's continuing value has a lot to do with his Dallas rejuvenation.

    The same is true of Shawn Marion, another player who remained effective into his mid-30s with Dallas.

    Obviously, Allen lacks the two-way skills those guys boast, which means he's not likely to offer the same benefits they gave Rick Carlisle's club over the past few years. But you've got to admit the idea of Allen—the most prolific three-point shooter in history—and Dirk Nowitzki—the greatest shooting big man of all time—sharing the floor sounds like fun.

    And who knows? Maybe Carlisle will find a new way to use Allen that prolongs his career.

    Stepping back a bit, Dallas is a destination any veteran should consider. It's primed to be a serious contender in the West after landing Parsons and Tyson Chandler this summer, it's one of the most professionally run organizations in sports, and it's just a terrific place to play.

    Old pros like Allen are appreciated in Dallas, and you can bet the aging gunner would, in kind, appreciate a chance to play for another title.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Here it is: the obvious one.

    Allen's not the first star to recognize the benefits of playing alongside James, but he might be the one who most appreciates them. It's hard to know whether Allen would have continued getting the open looks he enjoyed from 2012 to 2014 if not for James.

    LBJ has a gravity all his own, one that pulls defenders toward him and opens up opportunities for everyone else on the floor. That's like mana from heaven for a shooter of Allen's caliber, and there's no doubt he loved playing alongside the King.

    Per Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, the feeling is mutual: "James loves Allen's game and relied on him for many important shots."

    Mike Miller, another James favorite, has already agreed to reconnect in Cleveland, per ESPN's Chris Broussard.

    With James, Kyrie Irving and an increasingly appealing mix of inexpensive players on rookie deals and experienced vets, the Cavs should have great appeal for Allen. And if James wants to bring him back into the fold, that should create an even bigger attraction.

    If Allen wants the good shots he loves and the championship chance he craves, there's no better landing spot than Cleveland.