Memphis Grizzlies: The Curious Case of Tony Allen

David Heeb@@DavidHeebCorrespondent INovember 8, 2011

Tony Allen's game is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
Tony Allen's game is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Tony Allen can't shoot.  Tony Allen isn't a great ball handler.  Tony Allen isn't a shooting guard, but then again, Tony Allen isn't a small forward either.

So how does Tony Allen, a man without a position, manage to have such an impact on winning teams?

My opinion, because Tony Allen is a good basketball player, and he is one helluva defender.

When did basketball get so specialized?  Why does every player have to fit a certain mold before his game is accepted?  The most wonderful thing about basketball, in my opinion, is that it doesn't have to be specialized.

Tony Allen is the personification of my theory of "despecialization."

Standing only 6'4", Allen would be undersized if he were a shooting guard.  Adding to his shooting guard woes is Allen's awful career three point percentage (28.1 percent). 

Allen possesses neither the size nor the skill to play "the two."

It stands to reason, if he is undersized for a wing guard, he is really undersized when trying to match up to NBA small forwards.  Speaking of NBA small forwards, they are usually above average rebounders.  Allen averages a paltry 2.6 rebounds per game for his career.

Allen makes up for all of his basketball shortcomings by being one of the best defensive players in the NBA (2011 First Team All Defense).  His ability to make the other team's best player have a bad night is a rare commodity in the NBA.

So what do the Memphis Grizzlies do with Tony Allen?

With a surplus of perimeter players, what is Tony Allen's role with this team?  Last year's "wing rotation" of Sam Young, O.J. Mayo, Shane Battier and Allen is surely going to get crowded now with Rudy Gay finally healthy.

Throw in youngsters Xavier Henry and Josh Selby, and things are about to get crowded in Memphis.

In my opinion, the Grizzlies need to start Tony Allen at shooting guard.  That's right, I want the Grizzlies to start a non-shooter at shooting guard. 

My reasoning is very simple: There is only one ball out there, and everybody doesn't have to be able to shoot it like Ray Allen to be a good player.

Tony Allen is a great fit for the Grizzlies at the two spot.  With Mike Conley at the point, Gay at small forward, Zach Randolph playing power forward and Marc Gasol at center, the Grizzlies have four guys on the court who are a threat to score. 

In particular, Gay and Randolph are both 20 point per game scorers.  I think Marc Gasol could break out and be an All-Star this year.

So how many points do you really need out of Tony Allen?

By starting Allen and placing him on the top wing scorer, that would free up Rudy Gay to guard the second wing option every night.  If the Grizzlies need offense, just put O.J. Mayo in for Allen, and he can fill that role.

Truthfully, that is probably the role that best suits Mayo anyway.

So by starting Tony Allen, the Grizzlies would be setting up a dominant starting lineup, and they would now have a real scoring threat off the bench.

If I were Lionel Hollins, that is how I would play it.  If it works out, I think the Grizzlies could be the surprise team in the West this season.

You know, if we ever end this lockout and there is a season.


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