Why Ray Allen Should Spurn LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers in Free Agency

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Why Ray Allen Should Spurn LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers in Free Agency
Bart Young/Getty Images

It won't be easy for Ray Allen to resist the siren song coming from the Cleveland Cavaliers and former running mate/recent vacation partner LeBron James, but right decisions are often the hardest to make.

The Cavs can offer the 39-year-old a(nother) chance to run with the planet's best baller and do so in the context of a(nother) likely championship chase. With a pair of rings already sitting inside his jewelry case, though, does Allen's legacy really need the lift of following James' path to the podium?

According to Allen, his legacy has already been cemented. He could walk away now and feel satisfied about the trail left behind him.

"I've played 18 years," he told Dom Amore of The Hartford Courant earlier this summer, "and the way I look at my career, I'm content with everything that I've done."

As he should be.

His name will live on long after he laces up his oversized sneakers. Consider that one of the finest perks for booking 10 All-Star trips, converting more career triples than anyone in the history of the NBA and being the trigger man on one of his era's most iconic shots.

He's not necessarily done penning his basketball script if he doesn't want to be.

Last season—his 18th in the league—he gave the Miami Heat 9.6 points in 26.5 minutes a night. While that marked the first time in his career he failed to crack double figures, it still made him the highest-scoring reserve on a team that went to its fourth consecutive NBA Finals.

Thanks to his renowned commitment to his craft, he looks like he could make that type of impact for another five years. Whether he would actually want to is a different story, but he "has told people close to him that he will play in the NBA next season instead of retiring," a source revealed to ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.

That might explain why the Cavs still like their odds of landing the historically proficient perimeter shooter, as Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears reported:

In a lot of ways, Cleveland looks like an obvious landing spot. CBS Sports' James Herbert wrote: "He'd surely be comfortable with the Cavaliers. Allen loved playing with James in Miami, and he'd be with ex-Heat teammates Mike Miller and James Jones. The three sharpshooters used to take a separate bus to the arena for early pregame shooting."

As Mike Miller put it shortly after following James' lead to Cleveland, "We're moving Miami to northeast Ohio," via ESPN.com.

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

As far as comfort is concerned, Allen might not find a more welcoming setting. Assuming, of course, he's fine trading the white sands of South Beach for Cleveland's white snowfalls.

Outside of a friendly, familiar locker room, though, the fit may not be nearly as snug as it seems.

Even if the Cavaliers deal for Kevin Love once top pick Andrew Wiggins can be traded, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported, their fantasy roster would still have holes that Allen cannot fill.

On paper, Cleveland should have a wealth of talent at the 2 through 4 spots. In addition to James and Love, the Cavs can lean on Miller, Jones, Dion Waiters, Shawn Marion and Tristan Thompson, among others, at those positions.

Allen's greatest asset—three-point shooting—also appears to be this new-look roster's top attribute. He's more talented than Jones and, historically, more durable than Miller. But Allen is also a redundant talent in what could be a minor role if Waiters' planned adjustments allow him to tap into his full potential.

The Cavs would have more shooting with Allen—a key ingredient to the best James-led teams—but they'd still be agonizingly light at point guard and center. Considering the two starters at those positions, Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao, have missed 164 games combined over the past three seasons, finding insurance options behind them might be a more impactful pursuit than chasing another shooter.

David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

No matter how much or how little the Cavs need Allen, it's significantly more than he needs them.

He said himself he has nothing left to prove. Taking things one step further, one might safely deduce he has nothing left to gain by making another run as a hired gun.

There are no guarantees that this franchise will snap the city's championship drought at any point, let alone in the first year of James' new Big Three. He didn't raise a banner until his second season with the Heat, and that team had more experience than this one.

But what if James' razor-sharp focus and the hunger of the success-starved pair of Irving and Love rush this process along? What if the Cavs go from celebrating a draft lottery jackpot to parading after a world title in a single year?

It would be fascinating to watch—but probably not much of a needle-mover for Allen. Unless he has another miracle shot up his sleeve, he'll likely play a supporting role small enough that he might not even make the opening credits.

How would that change his perception at all? Outside of lengthening his lead in career threes, which he could obviously do with any NBA team, what kind of historical progress could he make by playing a bit part on a championship team?

I'd guess very little, if any.

And if his one-year run in Cleveland didn't include a championship ending? Well, his stock might actually take a hit.

J Pat Carter/Associated Press

If the final three seasons of his career are spent trying to handpick the right contender and he guesses wrong twice, will that change the way he's seen at all? Might that image of him as LeBron's shadow start to overtake some of our memories of the Ray Allen who tallied 21.5 points on .446/.397/.888 across his first 10 seasons in the league?

Not entirely, of course, but there's an undeniable risk with trying to catch another championship wave.

It just seems below Allen's level. He has had the individual success to be remembered among the all-time greats. His ring collection isn't empty, so it's not as if he's looking for a chance to experience something he missed out on during his peak performance years.

James and the Cavaliers can form quite a compelling sales pitch, but Allen has to know he does not need what they are selling.

 

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