When LeBron James took his talents back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he joined a team that was high on potential, but short on veteran experience and three-point shooting.
Ray Allen could relieve both itches with a single scratch, an act he'd surely execute with picturesque form and flawless footwork.
After spending the past two seasons with James in South Beach, the 39-year-old sharpshooter is reportedly considering following James' lead to Northeast Ohio.
"Former Celtic and Heat standout Ray Allen is leaning towards returning for a 19th NBA season and joining former teammate LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to a league source," Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe reported.
Before Allen reaches any decision, he'll first need to make sure his body will cooperate for another year of hoops. He has kept himself in immaculate physical condition, but the best-case scenario in his race with Father Time is delaying an inevitable defeat.
With 1,300 regular-season games and an additional 171 playoff contests on his NBA odometer, Allen said he needs to have his wheels checked before committing to another ride, via ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst:
The Cavs can only hope that exam shows Allen whatever he needs to see to sign on the dotted line.
For a young team looking to rapidly ascend the NBA's hierarchy, Allen is an ideal leader.
He teaches young players how to be professional athletes. He is the proverbial first one in and last one out. In 2012, the Boston Celtics released a video documenting some of Allen's meticulous pregame workouts.
None of it was done for show. Rain or shine, in-season or out, he has always put in the work to stay one step ahead of the game.
"He golfs all day during the summer. But he still gets [the workouts in]," his former coach Doc Rivers said, via ESPN Boston's Greg Payne. "He does what he wants to do, but he’ll still go into the gym. He’ll play 36 [holes of golf] and still go to the gym, because he knows that’s his job."
As we're far too often reminded, the sports world is a business.
Allen treats as such, but not in the way we typically think. Rather than building his brand, he's focused his energy on building his arsenal.
He has left nothing to chance. His miracle shot in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals was hardly a miracle. Somehow, he had the foresight to prepare for that exact situation.
Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins explained:
As a young player in Milwaukee, Allen invented a drill in which he lies in the key, springs to his feet and backpedals to the corner. A coach throws him a pass. He has to catch and shoot without stepping on the three-point line or the sideline. In Allen's first training session with the Heat, just after Labor Day 2012, he performed the drill. "It was the first time I ever saw anybody do that," Spoelstra says. "He told me he does it for offensive rebounding purposes. He said, 'You never know when you'll be in a situation where you have to find the three-point line without looking down.'"
Veteran teams could learn a lot from having Allen around.
But for the Cavaliers, who have five top-four picks from the last four drafts (for now, at least), Allen's insight could be invaluable. Greatness doesn't happen without heavily invested sweat equity, and he has both the teaching tools to bring the Cavs along and the track record to validate his methods.
"Even with the young talent that they have there, you've got to bring guys that have been there before," veteran sniper Mike Miller—who signed a two-year contract with the Cavs earlier this month—said, via Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald. "...Because those are the guys that understand the preparation, the adjustments, things like that can really bring those guys along."
Allen's locker room influence wouldn't stop with Cleveland's young guns, either.
He, like Miller, is a good friend of James. The Cavs will want to do everything in their power to make the King comfortable, particularly if Kevin Love, his preferred sidekick, winds up somewhere other than Cleveland.
Windhorst and Marc Stein reported Wednesday that the Chicago Bulls have renewed their efforts to bring Love to the Windy City. Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski said the Denver Nuggets are still in the mix, and the Golden State Warriors could get back in the race if they loosen their stance on keeping Klay Thompson.
James' recruiting pitch could have Love leaning toward Cleveland, but the Minnesota Timberwolves ultimately control where the double-double machine will go. If the Cavs can't lure him in, they'll want to add players that James enjoys playing with—or keep adding them, rather:
Off the floor, Allen could provide the success-starved Cavaliers with a tremendous lift. Inside the lines, he might make an even bigger impact.
James does his best work while surrounded by shooters. As the Miami Heat moved their "pace and space" attack over the course of his tenure, his efficiency soared: 51 percent shooting, 27.3 player efficiency rating in 2010-11; 56.7 percent shooting, 29.3 PER last season, via Basketball-Reference.com.
The Cavs didn't have much of a perimeter attack last season. Their 35.6 three-point percentage ranked 18th in the league. The two top three-point shooting regulars from that team left in free agency (Spencer Hawes and C.J. Miles).
Since James' arrival, the Cavs have worked to improve their floor spacing. Miller and James Jones both joined their old teammate in Cleveland. If Allen, the most prolific perimeter shooter in NBA history, joins the party, the Cavs could have the arsenal to give James the real estate he needs to work.
|Comparing Allen's 2013-14 Season with Cavs' Top Shooters|
Allen might have had the lowest shooting percentage among him, Miller and Jones last season, but all three have a career three-point percentage between 40.0 (Allen) and 40.9 (Miller). Allen also averaged more points (9.6) and more minutes (26.5) than either Miller (7.1, 20.8) or Jones (4.9, 11.8).
Father Time has cost Allen a lot of his athleticism, limiting his effectiveness outside of his shooting. But the Cavs can live with that. They have James and Kyrie Irving to share the heaviest playmaking and scoring loads, with top pick Andrew Wiggins manning the toughest perimeter defensive assignment.
The Cavs have more depth than the Heat did last season. They shouldn't need Allen to log another age-defying minutes dosage again. With Miller, Dion Waiters and possibly Jones factoring into the second-team perimeter rotation, Allen may only have to give about 20 minutes of lights-out shooting a night.
When he's not playing, he'll be leading. He was an expert slasher in his prime, so he can share the tricks of that trade with athletic specimens Waiters and Wiggins. Both figure to spend more time off the ball next season than ever before, and Allen has a wealth of knowledge to share about that style of play.
He has life experiences to share with everyone on the team, but he could play a critical role in Waiters' development. Talent has never been an issue for the explosive guard, but his attitude has rubbed teammates the wrong way. Still only 22 years old, Waiters has time on his side. If he had Allen in his corner, he could be the active, productive player Cleveland envisioned when it grabbed him with the No. 4 pick in 2012.
On the floor, Cleveland just needs Allen to shoot, and history shows how well he can do that. Throw in his added value as a teacher and leader, and it's clear the Cavs should have a roster spot set aside for him if he wants it.