Ray Allen is often assumed to be heading to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, particularly since forming the "Big Three" with NBA veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on the Boston Celtics.
There have been countless references to the Celtics and their "three future Hall of Famers," but there has also been some quiet voices that question the legitimacy of Ray Allen's bid to join the hoops immortals in Springfield.
Some liken Allen to former Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings star, Mitch Richmond, one of the few players in league history with over 20,000 career points scored who is not enshrined in the Hall.
Richmond scored 20,497 points as a member of the Warriors, Kings, Washington Wizards, and Los Angeles Lakers. In his nine years with the Warriors and Kings, Richmond was considered one of the league's best pure scorers, never averaging below 21.9 points per game or shooting less than 44 percent from the field. He won Olympic Gold as a member of "Dream Team III" in the 1996 Atlanta Games. Richmond even picked up a championship ring as a bench-warmer on the 2001-02 Lakers team.
For the six seasons between 1993 and 1998, Richmond was an NBA All-Star each season, and was named to five All-NBA teams (three on the Second Team, two on the Third Team).
Ray Allen was the fifth pick in the 1996 draft. Ray struggled for shot attempts as a rookie, but quickly emerged as the best player on the team. From 1999 to 2003, Allen was the undisputed leader of the Milwaukee Bucks (just don't ask Sam Cassell), leading the team to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001.
After a disappointing finish in the 2001-02 season, and numerous clashes with head coach George Karl, the Bucks traded their star player to the Seattle Supersonics for Karl's old Sonics point guard, Gary Payton. The experiment failed. The Bucks were terrible, coach Karl was fired, and Ray increased his scoring average every year with the Sonics.
Allen again played a leadership role, as he did with the Bucks, but his Sonics teammates were younger and more receptive to his influence. Allen led the young Sonics to the Western Conference Finals in the 2005 playoffs, losing to eventual champion San Antonio.
The Sonics lost coach Nate McMillan to the Portland Trailblazers during the offseason, and regressed considerably during the 2005-06 season. Allen kept getting better, however, raising his scoring average to 25 points per game, while shooting 45 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point range.
Allen was having probably his best statistical season in 2006-07, averaging over 26 per game, before missing the final 27 games of the season with surgery on both ankles.
To this point, Allen had been on two All-NBA teams (2001 and 2005), seven All-Star teams (2000-2002, 2004-2007), one gold-winning Olympic team (2000), and had a reputation as the best pure shooter in the game. Pretty similar to the first nine years of Mitch Richmond's career.
It was at this point that the basketball gods began smiling on Baby Ray.
Instead of getting dealt to a horrible Wizards team as befell Richmond, Allen was sent to the Boston Celtics to become part of the "Big Three." Ray Allen was then able to display his leadership, willingness to sacrifice, and the purest jump shot this side of Larry Bird to a national audience.
Winning a championship in the first year of the "Big Three," not as a role player who logged just four minutes of total playing time like Richmond, but as a key leader on the team, cemented Allen's legitimacy as a Hall of Famer.
Through a combination of his role on the team and simple skills deterioration, Allen's scoring continues to slide down from his days as a 24 points per game guy, but he is still a recognized force on a contending team.
He's entering his 16th season in the NBA and he's 35 years old, but Ray is also still easily capable of averaging 15-16 points per game. There will still be nights when he leads the team in scoring. Still the best pure shooter in the game, Allen can catch fire from long-range like few players in NBA history.
Allen will likely pass Reggie Miller as the all-time leader in three-point field goal attempts and makes during the 2010-11 season. He will also likely pass (barring injury) Larry Bird, Gary Payton, and Clyde Drexler on the all-time scoring list. He also won't be done.
Allen signed a two-year contract with the Celtics over the summer. Even if we assume (probably incorrectly) that he falls beneath 15 points per game in the second year of the deal, Allen is still going to crack the top 20 on the scoring list.
There is not a single eligible player in the top 20 on the NBA all-time scoring list who is not in the Hall of Fame.
Did the trade to Boston and the 2008 championship help Allen's Hall of Fame credentials?
Absolutely, but more from an optics perspective than anything else. Even if Allen had been dealt elsewhere in 2007, and continued to toil away as the best player on a bad team, the sheer numbers he will have accumulated would have made him a Hall of Fame lock regardless of championship jewelery.
The biggest difference between Allen and Richmond, outside of Allen being a clear leader on his teams, is that Allen has played more years at a higher level than did Mitch. Simply a numbers game.
So there you have it, you can continue to very safely say that the Celtics core consists of three future Hall of Fame players.