When fans of the Milwaukee Bucks voted on the 40th Anniversary Team in 2008, Ray Allen finished third in balloting, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. That's high praise for a player that played for only one team that won more than 42 games in a season.
Before he was a part of the "Big Three" in Boston, Allen was part of the famed "Big Three" in Milwaukee, along with Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell. The trio's greatest success for the Bucks came in 2001 when they led the team to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Allen just had a terrible NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, shooting 36% from the field. He scored just 14.5 points a game, down five points from his career playoff average. After making eight three-point shots in Game 2, he made only four shots from beyond the arc the rest of the series.
To say Allen had a nightmare of a series is being generous. He now faces an uncertain future as he enters free agency, as he'll turn 35-years-old before the start of next season. He has said he'd like to return to the Celtics, but they are in need of a youth movement, and Allen may be a casualty of that.
Allen averaged his fewest minutes played this season (35.2) since his third season when he played just over 34 minutes a game. It's clear he can still be a valuable player, but he can no longer log major minutes over the course of an 82-game season.
The Bucks are in desperate need of help in their backcourt. Michael Redd blew out his knee for the second consecutive season, and John Salmons is likely to opt out of his contract and leave via free agency. Allen could serve as a good stabilizing force to help continue Brandon Jennings' maturation into an elite-level point guard.
Brandon Jennings surpassed all expectations placed before him in his rookie season, but without a solid shooting guard, teams will be able to shut him down and derail the team's offense.
With Allen not able to play full-time minutes, the Bucks could draft an eventual replacement such as Xavier Henry or James Anderson. Each projects as a future starter at the shooting guard position, and there would be few better players to learn from than Allen.
No matter where Allen signs, he's likely won't earn more than the mid-level exception. If that is the case, he may sign with the team that gives him the best chance to make another deep run in the playoffs. Should Boston decide not to pursue him, Milwaukee would definitely be in the running to bring Allen back to where his career began.
Allen may not be the best player to sign for on-court success in Milwaukee in 2011, but he'd be the best move from a public relations stand point. Coming off their best season since 2001, the Bucks would continue building up good will with their fan base by signing Allen. The question now is: Would Allen be as open to a return to Milwaukee as management and the fans would be?
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