Much has been made about Rajon Rondo's dominating stat-lines and Kevin Garnett's domination of Antawn Jamison, but Ray Allen's big-time shooting played just as big a role in the Celtics' dethroning of King James.
While Allen had a relatively quiet Game 6 against Cleveland, the stat splits reveal that he's easily had his best outings all season when facing the Cavs. He knocked down open jumpers every time the Cleveland defense got off balance...which turned out to be an awful lot.
Allen certainly won’t be the most chic pick on the free agent list this year. Yet, while you couldn't even consider him a "second tier" player, like a Rudy Gay or Carlos Boozer, Allen has still lined himself up for another decent paycheck and possibly another starting gig somewhere.
Allen is not quite to the point where he's an absolute defensive liability, but that day is fast approaching, as it has for all great shooters. Allen's minutes, points per game, and shooting percentage have also been in decline since he arrived in Boston three seasons ago.
Yet, the man can still flat out shoot the ball.
While Allen might not rise up quite as high as he used to, you still know every made shot as soon as he releases the ball, using one of the quickest triggers of all time. On the nights that he's struggling to get lift, Allen's shot has a tendency to go flat. Fortunately for the Celtics, Allen has had fresh legs throughout the playoffs, and that advantage has been telling.
The top three destinations for Ray Allen must be limited to playoff contenders, as he's unlikely to waste the waning days of his career on an also-ran. He must be joining a good defensive team, especially in the backcourt, as he'll need some help masking his inability to cover elite guards anymore.
Allen should be joining a team that can use him as a starter next season, but who won't have to rely on him in that role for more than a year. After that point, Allen will probably have to transition to a shooting specialist off the bench, or a small-minute starter.
In the future, his regular season minutes will need to keep declining in order to save his shot for the playoffs. Figure that the mid-level exception or slightly higher are definitely realistic prices for a key playoff cog like Ray Allen.
1. Boston Celtics
This obviously is the sentimental choice. Yet, you probably also haven't forgotten that earlier in the year, I wrote about how the Celtics were in desperate need of a makeover (here). That of course seems kind of silly, now that Boston reawakened from the dead and become a playoff nightmare for both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
Rajon Rondo has taken over this team, and younger players like Tony Allen, Glen Davis, and Kendrick Perkins have helped to energize Boston's veterans. Yet, current playoff run aside, the geriatrics aren't getting any younger, and the Celtics are still going to need further infusions of youth.
So how does Ray Allen still fit into their plans?
Firstly, Allen absolutely compliments Rondo's shooting limitations, while Rondo's defensive ball pressure and ability to attack the paint have helped hide Allen's lost athleticism.
Secondly, Allen has so bought into the chemistry and vibe of this team, that he easily would accept a more limited role. That is of course, should Tony Allen or Marquis Daniels ever play consistently enough to warrant starter consideration. To that point though, Tony Allen has done a lot this past series to make a case. In fact, he took the crunch time minutes from Ray in Game 6.
Boston can probably get by for just one more season with Ray Allen playing 30+ minutes a game. After that, they'll need to transition him to a smaller-minute shooting specialist. No matter what happens with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the future, Allen can still open the floor for Rondo by knocking down open threes.
It would be fitting for Ray Allen to cap off the career-long legacy he's finalized in Boston.
2. Utah Jazz
This option only works if the Jazz decide to let Carlos Boozer walk. In that case, they'll have enough money left over to make a couple of reasonable signings.
Would Allen really want to move all the way out to Utah at this point in his career? At closer look, the Jazz actually could be an attractive destination, should Boston choose to part ways with the least important member of their "big four."
Firstly, Utah has a need at shooting guard. Wesley Matthews might be a solid starter down the line, and CJ Miles can also spend time at the two, but neither of those guys has been consistent enough to absolutely win the spot. Allen would be able to step in, play the minutes that count, and then get plenty of rest while younger legs cover for him.
What's more, if Kyle Korver can't be re-signed, the Jazz are absolutely going to need another three-point specialist. Otherwise, Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur are the only consistent outside options. Even if Korver comes back, the Jazz would surely welcome another player who can stretch the floor for Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko as they pick-and-roll with Williams.
To that point, Utah's highly-structured offense could be perfect for Allen. He moves well without the ball, still looks to back door cut when possible, and is best as a catch-and-shoot scorer. Jerry Sloan would value a class act like Allen, whose intelligence and unselfishness would mesh well with the rest of his crew.
Finally, Deron Williams' ridiculous energy and athleticism would again be enough to defensively cover for Allen when on the floor together.
Again, would Allen really want to move all the way out to Utah at this point in his career? If Boston let's him go, he'll be hard pressed to find a better system or backcourt mate than with the Jazz.
Here's another controlled offense that absolutely needs a three-point shooter. Charlotte found out the hard way that, despite all their defensive pluck and offensive discipline, they really can't go anywhere without having a floor-stretching scorer.
The Bobcats might not be close enough to legitimate contention in order to truly lure Allen, but Larry Brown's credibility and the chance to play major minutes might just be enough.
Brown has done an excellent job of extending, or even completely re-booting, veteran careers; he'd undoubtedly do the same with such a savvy player like Allen. With Brown's system and support, Ray would find all the shots he wanted and enough back up on defense to remain a key contributor for a few more seasons to come.
The real question will be whether DJ Augustin or Raymond Felton is truly defensive enough to cover for Allen. The answer is probably a "no," but Charlotte has plenty of other long-armed options in Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, and Tyrus Thomas, should they need to shut down a bigger shooting guard.
Charlotte does have enough money to make this type of offseason purchase, and they won't find a better answer for their dearth of shooting prowess than by signing Ray Allen.
Trust me on this one. After all, I am a Doctor.
- "Dr. Trade"