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Can Tony Allen Save the Memphis Grizzlies from Their Late-Season Slump?

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2015

Brandon Dill/AP Images

In theory, the Memphis Grizzlies' acquisition of Jeff Green from the Boston Celtics was the low-risk, high-reward solution needed to liven up the team's perimeter offerings. 

While Green looked like an apparent savior at the start of his stint in the Southwest Division, that belief couldn't be further from the truth right now. Fortunately, head coach Dave Joerger can remedy the team's problems with a quick and painless lineup switch that will benefit his club in the long run.

While Green has struggled since arriving in Memphisaveraging 12.4 points on 39.6 percent shooting from the field and 32.5 percent shooting from threeTony Allen has been trending in the opposite direction. 

As Wednesday night's 95-92 loss to the Boston Celtics exemplified, Allen is the more efficient and well-rounded player Memphis (45-19) needs to climb out of a murky stretch littered with lethargy.

In 27 minutes off the bench, Allen recorded 16 points (7-of-9 shooting), five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. Memphis was also plus-three with him on the floor.

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Conversely, Green tallied 11 points (4-of-13 shooting), four rebounds and a steal as his former team outscored the Grizzlies by eight points when he was on the floor.

From a pure volume standpoint, Green has been the better scorer this month. But in every other phase of the game, Allen has been the superior contributor for a team that has dropped five of its last nine games. 

Allen vs. Green in March
PlayerPPGRPGAPGSPGFG%
Tony Allen12.25.60.82.671.8
Jeff Green14.04.82.30.838.0
NBA.com/Stats

Dating back to February, Joerger has lauded Green's ability to prop up the offense.

"Jeff has been making his three-point shots," Joerger said, according to The Oklahoman's Anthony Slater. "He's a tremendous three-point shooter from the corners. And it also gives us somebody at the end of the clock, a bailout guy, who if he's stuck with the ball can go get us a shot."

But lately, he hasn't lived up to the praise, as Grizzly Bear Blues' Eric Lenser explained:

Needless to say, the Jeff Green honeymoon quickly and violently reached a premature ending over these past few games. Until last night, coach Dave Joerger struggled to put the pieces together in a way that wasn't forcefully and incorrectly jamming the puzzle to completion. The alleged three-point threat of Green has been a mercurial aspect of his game.

This all begs the question: Should Green still be starting over Allen? 

While the 33-year-old swingman isn't going to salvage offensive possessions with miraculous displays of ingenuity, he personifies the "Grit 'N Grind" mantra that's come to define the Western Conference title contenders.  

However, Allen hasn't started a game since Jan. 21, with Green saddling up next to Courtney Lee on the wing as the starting small forward. 

A quick comparison of the two players' efficiency ratings reveals a staunch disparity in effectiveness:  

Not only has Allen been the more productive offensive player on a possession-to-possession basis, but his defensive contributions have been invaluable. When he's on the floor, Memphis operates as the league's top-ranked defense, surrendering fewer than 96 points per 100 possessions. 

Here's some more food for thought: Since Green made his Memphis debut Jan. 14, the Grizzlies have had five lineups log at least 50 minutes together. Joerger's most used unit in that time has consisted of Mike Conley, Lee, Green, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol

That lineup has been outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions in more than 300 minutes together—the worst net rating of any five-man grouping rolled out since Green arrived.

And get this: When Allen has slid in for Green during that same span, Memphis is smoking opponents by 11.5 points per 100 possessions.

To be precise, here's how the two units stack up:  

Whose Lineup Is It Anyway?
PersonnelMinutesOffensive RatingDefensive RatingNet Rating
Conley-Lee-Allen-Randolph-Gasol76107.996.4+11.5
Conley-Lee-Green-Randolph-Gasol31299.4102.7-3.4
NBA.com/Stats

That's mind-boggling. 

For a team that's encountering some very real struggles, according to The Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery, a lineup change can't come soon enough: 

Ronald Tillery @CAGrizBeat

Conley's limp really bad with boot in his hands; Zbo cussin and fussin; Gasol cut his interview short "because I'm frustrated"...

"We've got to get out of our box," Allen told reporters following Wednesday's loss, per Tillery. "Some time we try to do the right play too much and we turn the ball over. … These [losses to the] Sacramentos, Utahs, all of them. Just write them up on the wall. These come back and hurt you." 

Memphis isn't in immediate danger of retreating from its occupation of the West's No. 2 seed—the Grizz hold a two-game lead over Portland and Houston—but a lack of continuity on both ends of the floor has made that a topic worth broaching as the final month of the regular season gets underway.

With Conley nursing a sprained right ankle, Green regressing noticeably and the full squad posting a negative net rating since the All-Star break, Memphis needs a savior.

Allen can be just that, but only if he gets the opportunity.

All statistics current as of March 12 and courtesy of NBA.com unless noted otherwise. 

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