San Antonio Spurs Offer Ray Allen What No Other NBA Team Can

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2014

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The San Antonio Spurs rarely make epic free-agent splashes, but they've been known to add the occasional veteran role player.

Could unrestricted free agent Ray Allen follow in the footsteps of previous summer additions along the lines of Michael Finley and Antonio McDyess?'s Marc Stein seems to believe there's a chance.

He reports that, "Sources told this week that the Spurs and Clippers have emerged as two more rivals for the Cavaliers to worry about as Cleveland continues to try to lure Allen away from the Miami Heat."

Stein adds that, "The Dallas Mavericks, sources say, are yet another top Western Conference team to register interest in Allen this summer and there are believed to be more teams chasing him that have yet to be identified."

A note of caution is in order, however, as Stein notes:

Indeed, Allen has been anything but committal since becoming a free agent after spending two seasons with the Miami Heat

"As Ray has previously stated, he is taking this time to make a decision whether or not he will play next season," agent Jim Tanner said in an August statement, per USA TODAY Sports. "Any reports otherwise are false."

Allen has sounded a similar tune.

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 15:  Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 15, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
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"It's August, and I don't want to rush to judgment," Allen said, according to the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore. "I want to get to September and see how I really feel."

So the Spurs' odds of acquiring the iconic sharpshooter hinge in part on whether he decides to delay retirement another year. Competing with Allen's likely temptation to join LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers reasons to be another obstacle.

But Allen's intentions remain indeterminate enough for San Antonio to hold out hope.

"There’s so much speculation about me going to Cleveland," Allen told the Boston Herald's Mark Murphy. "I haven’t even decided where I will play. Obviously LeBron and I are great friends, and James Jones and I are really close. But at no point have those two tried to push me in that direction. I haven’t had that conversation."

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 12:  LeBron James #6 and Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat celebrate in the final minutes of the game against the Brooklyn Nets in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Barclays Center on May 1
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Allen added, "I have not leaned towards Cleveland. I have not made any mention of going to Cleveland. These last two months were about me physically, and deciding whether I want to play again."

As Murphy notes, "Allen is weighing family concerns and a major question of whether he wants to retire in prime physical shape, or whether he wants to chase his third NBA title."

And that's where the Spurs barge their way into the conversation. 

While one could certainly argue that the Cavaliers and Clippers both offer comparable chances at that third title, San Antonio is coming off the fifth championship in franchise history and appears to be in prime condition to vie for another one.

It may take Cleveland some time to develop title-caliber chemistry between its established superstars (James and Kevin Love) and their younger counterparts (Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson).

Meanwhile, Los Angeles has been ousted from the conference semifinals in two of the last three seasons—and from the opening round in 2013.

The Spurs have made two consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals and came within two conference-finals victories of doing so in 2012. 

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 15: Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates with the Larry O'Brien trophy after defeating the Miami Heat in Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 15, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User
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Point guard Tony Parker remains in the prime of his career, scoring and facilitating as well as virtually any floor general in the business. At 38 years old, Tim Duncan returns for at least one more season while aging with remarkable grace and making an All-Star-caliber impact on both ends of the floor.

And while sixth man Manu Ginobili remains a lethal weapon for 20-25 minutes per contest, the Spurs can increasingly rely on the emergence of Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard—a 23-year-old boasting elite defensive skills and a suddenly robust offensive game replete with perimeter shooting, driving ability and a rapidly improving in-between game.

This team's core should be attractive to Allen. A platoon of capable role players (Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Marco Belinelli and—when healthy—Patty Mills) should ensure San Antonio remains the deepest team in the business, with or without Allen.

But there certainly reasons to be room enough for a veteran winner who has a knack for nailing timely three-pointers.

Though Allen turned 39 this summer, he's still in fantastic shape and proved plenty relevant during Miami's most recent postseason march.

After averaging 9.6 points per contest and converting on 37.5 percent of his three-pointers during the regular season, the Connecticut product was at times lethal in the playoffs—averaging 13 points against the Brooklyn Nets and notching double-figure points three time against the Indiana Pacers.

Beyond offering Allen an opportunity to win now, San Antonio can also guarantee a role in which he'd thrive.

Allen's bread and butter remains the corner three-ball, as attested to by last season's shot chart.

Allen's 2013-14 shot chart.
Allen's 2013-14 shot chart.Credit:

As's Couper Moorhead noted back in 2012, "It just so happens that there may be no better floor spacer, nor a better mover without the ball, than Allen."

Then-teammate Shane Battier made a similar observation in 2012, specifically noting the spacing value of those corner bombs.

"That's the kind of decisions we want teams to make," Battier said, per's Tom Haberstroh. "Not a fun decision. The corner three is an absolute killer. If you allow it, you're in trouble. If you defend it, you're in business. The threat of it can be just as potent as the actual shot...If we're making shots, especially from the corner, the lanes are going to open up."

Good as Battier himself was from those corners, it's hard to find anyone better than Allen—as Spurs fans remember all too well from a certain shot in the 2013 NBA Finals.

Allen's lethality from sideline to sideline makes his fit in San Antonio all the better.

Per, the Spurs made 42.3 percent of their threes from the left corner (sixth league-wide) and 39.3 percent of their attempts from the right corner (15th league-wide). Given the volume of shots attempted from those locations, San Antonio's success rate is especially impressive.

There's little doubt it would be even more impressive with Allen in the fold.

Interest aside, there's certainly little guarantee Allen winds up in silver and black. In addition to the competition for his services, San Antonio has little roster flexibility.

As Stein notes, "The Spurs, meanwhile, have only one open roster spot at the moment," and centers Gustavo Ayon and Aron Baynes remain candidates to take that spot.

Still, San Antonio has its full mid-level exception available. That's something neither the Cavaliers nor Clippers can offer. Allen's decision probably won't come down to money alone at this point in his storied career, but a little extra couldn't hurt.

The Spurs whiffed in their pursuit of free-agent big man Pau Gasol (who eventually signed with the Chicago Bulls this summer), and they may well come up short with Allen.

Hopefully it won't be for a lack of trying.


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