Cleveland Cavaliers Would Be Wise to Pass on Ray Allen

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterFebruary 26, 2015

Jun 10, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Ray Allen (34) reacts during the fourth quarter of game three of the 2014 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

The most talked-about free agent the past few months may not even play in the NBA this season.

For the Cleveland Cavaliers and their (current/previous) pursuit of Ray Allen, this may not be such a bad thing.

The Cavs have been interested in Allen since last summer, hoping to pair him with former teammate LeBron James. As general manager David Griffin told Bob Finnan of The Morning Journal in September:

Until he signs, that’s going to be a target for everybody. Ray is someone who fits us as a shooter. His championship pedigree fits us at a really high level. With James, Mike and LeBron here, I think he’d feel comfortable with our group. At the same time, it’s possible he’s not sure he wants to keep playing. He’s in no hurry to make a decision. We’ll play that out as far as we can.

Now five months after those comments were made, we still don't know if Allen will suit up in the NBA again this season. The 39-year-old has averaged 18.9 points per game over 18 seasons. He currently holds the NBA record for most career three-pointers.

Recent reports from multiple sources seem to indicate he may stay away from the game altogether, however.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Among numerous NBA executives with an interest in signing free-agent guard Ray Allen, there's a growing belief that Allen will not play in the league this season.

Allen still hasn't delivered word through his agent, Jim Tanner, that he wants to play – never mind begin the process of choosing a team, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Allen has been working out, but nothing to the level that would indicate an imminent return to get into NBA playing shape, sources tell Yahoo Sports. Still, there's time for Allen to make a decision, but as one general manager said Friday, "It's getting late in the game for this to happen."

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Woj also notes that the Cavaliers are/were considered the favorites to sign Allen, likely due to their success and his relationship with James, Mike Miller and James Jones. All reached out to him this summer, with James making another pitch in January during a trip to Miami, writes Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio.

The buzz surrounding Allen has been constant, but it shouldn't be justified.

Even if Allen decides to lace 'em up for season No. 19, the Cavs should kindly say "no thanks" to the future Hall of Famer.

 

What Could He Honestly Provide?

Allen is 39 years old and hasn't played in an NBA game in over eight months.

Yes, he's probably in great shape and looks better than most 20-year-olds. That doesn't mean that he's in game shape. Even Iman Shumpert, 24, admitted he felt "stuck in [the] mud" after missing just a few weeks earlier in the season, per ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin. If Shumpert was struggling to get his legs underneath him after some time off, how long would it realistically take Allen to acclimate?

Jessica Hill/Associated Press

After all, there are only six weeks remaining for the Cavaliers until playoff time rolls around. Cleveland has finally begun to find a rhythm with all the new guys it has assembled over the past few months. Allen would just be one more cook to squeeze into an already busy, and successful, kitchen.

We all know Allen is an excellent marksman from deep, arguably the best the game has ever witnessed.

Like all great players, however, Allen definitely showed signs of slowing down last season. His true shooting percentage (59.0 percent) was his lowest total in six years. For someone who doesn't do much more than shoot, this is a major red flag.

Consider this: Only four players in NBA history have even topped 36.0 percent shooting from deep after reaching age 39 (Derek Fisher, Cliff Robinson, Dale Ellis, John Stockton). As noted in the following section, anything below 38 percent shooting from three would actually be hurting the Cavs right now.

Could a team use Allen for five to 10 minutes a night, spot him up in a corner and hope for the best?

Absolutely; however, it's not what Cleveland needs.

 

What Cleveland Needs

Griffin is always talking about his team's fit and finding the right combination of role players to support the star-level ones.

He knew that, with dribble-penetration guys like James and Kyrie Irving, some outside shooters would be needed. That's why Griffin went out to get Miller and Jones and opted for sharpshooter Joe Harris in the second round of the 2014 draft.

By trading for J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, Griffin only added more three-point prowess to what was already a formidable group. Smith is first on the Cavaliers with 2.6 made threes per game, while Shumpert is right behind Irving for the team lead at 40.7 percent shooting from deep.

Cleveland is now one of the best three-point shooting teams thanks to Smith and Shumpert.
Cleveland is now one of the best three-point shooting teams thanks to Smith and Shumpert.Seth Wenig/Associated Press

The Cavs have won 17 of their last 19 games thanks in large part to this outside attack.

Over its last 15 contests, Cleveland ranks first in the league in made three-pointers (12.2), second in attempts (32.1) and fourth in percentage (38.0). The Golden State Warriors are the only other team ranked in the top four in all three categories over this same span, per NBA.com.

While the old adage proclaims you can never have too many shooters, this may not necessarily be true for the Cavaliers.

Cleveland has plenty of guys capable of lighting it up from deep. This includes 6'10" power forward Kevin Love, who's taking a career-high 38.7 percent of his total shots from three.

So much of their game is based off of pick-and-roll plays by James and Irving. Adding another guy who primarily scores outside the paint may create too much imbalance. With two of the best drive-and-penetrate players in the game, the Cavs would be doing themselves a disservice by firing up even more threes at the sake of looks in the paint.

 

Fit and Minutes

Before the recent signing of Kendrick Perkins, the Cavaliers had two main areas of need.

Neither was a veteran shooting guard.

Cleveland needed to get another big to help provide Timofey Mozgov with some insurance. Perkins fits that role perfectly. While another point guard would be nice to complement Irving and Matthew Dellavedova, the Cavaliers can also have James or Shumpert handle the ball.

If there's one position the Cavs are absolutely set at, it's the 2-guard.

Smith is holding down the starting job beautifully. He's averaging 12.6 points in 31.3 minutes a night. Shumpert is his primary backup and could definitely stand to see a rise in his playing time. The defensive wiz is getting just 21.9 ticks a night off the bench.

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

The Cavaliers also have Miller, Jones and Harris who can play shooting guard. Coach David Blatt can't find enough court time for his wings as it is. Miller is averaging 14.9 minutes in the 39 of a possible 58 games he's appeared in. Jones has found it even more difficult to get his name called, collecting 10.1 minutes in 34 contests.

Where exactly is the playing time for Allen?

There's also an issue of roster space. To put it simply, the Cavs don't have any. Ever since the trade for Mozgov, Cleveland carried 14 of a possible 15 players. Perkins has since filled the final spot. To make room for Allen, the Cavs would likely have to waive somebody, but who?

The rarely used Brendan Haywood is a possibility, but his $10 million non-guaranteed contract for next season is too valuable of a trade chip to simply release.

Miller and Jones would be next up, since Allen would likely be viewed as an upgrade over either. The problem with this would be team chemistry. Both Miller and Jones took pay cuts to join the Cavs, are close friends of James and are viewed as two of the best locker room veterans on the team. Letting either one go would certainly create a stir in what has become a tight-knit group of guys.

Allen, for all of his past success, just doesn't fit.

If he does decide to come back for the final stretch run with an NBA team, good for him. He's a veteran voice whom a lot of teams, especially those that need a shooter, would be lucky to have.

For the Cavaliers, however, their pursuit of Allen should finally come to an end.

 

Greg Swartz has covered the Cleveland Cavaliers for Bleacher Report since 2010.

All stats provided by Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.