NBA Sunday: Ray Allen Signing Overrated
Does Ray Allen Really Improve the HEAT?
The thing about the Miami HEAT, as we saw in these most recent NBA Finals, is that when guys knock down open three-pointers, they’re basically impossible to beat. That’s why they hired Mike Miller, James Jones, and now Ray Allen—to hit open shots when LeBron James either drives and kicks or backs a defender down into the lane to collapse defenses.
Allen, though, is better than the other two guys in that he can not only knock down threes more consistently than the other guys, but he can do a whole lot more than just hang around outside the line waiting for a dish, and that’s a big reason so many people are lauding this free agency signing as a fast pass for the HEAT to earn another set of championship rings eleven months from now.
But here’s a real, honest question that deserves a little conversation—does Ray Allen really make the HEAT all that much better?
For starters, Allen will be 37 years old when the 2012-2013 season begins, and two guards don’t typically get better with age. According to ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh, only two shooting guards aged 37 or older in the history of the league have knocked down 100 or more threes in a season: Reggie Miller and Dale Ellis.
Allen has made over 100 threes every season of his career except the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 season, but there are a lot of factors that could keep him from doing it the next three seasons in Miami.
The first is his lingering ankle issues, which kept him out of 20 games this past season. If he misses a third or more of the upcoming season, it could be hard for him to contribute to the team the way he wants to. It’s hard to help a team when you’re not on the floor.
Even when Allen was on the floor last year, he wasn’t always himself. He averaged only 14.2 ppg last season, the lowest since his rookie year, and he appears to be shying away from anything other than non-contact jumpers, as evidenced by the fact that he went to the free-throw line only 106 times, easily the worst number of his career.
Another problem is how, exactly, Allen fits into this team’s rotation. He’ll likely siphon minutes away from young point guards like Marion Chalmers and Norris Cole, as well as from Jones and Miller if he makes it back safely from back surgery this offseason, but two guard admittedly isn’t a position where the HEAT had a real pressing need. Dwyane Wade is going to get the lion’s share of the minutes there, which means we could see some funky lineups from this group next season just to get Allen on the floor long enough to find a rhythm.
Whatever unconventional lineup Miami uses next season, it should be pretty clear that Allen will be on the floor with James, Wade, and Chris Bosh at the ends of close games, because nobody hits a corner three like Allen. His three-point percentage last season was the best of his career at 45.3%, and anybody who’s ever watched him play knows he’s cold-blooded in the clutch. These are attributes that Boston will miss and Miami will certainly enjoy, but Allen’s combination of injury issues, age issues, and mileage issues (he’s got 1,276 career games on his odometer, including the playoffs) could mean he’s not quite the atomic bomb he’s being made out to be.
Anybody in the league would take Ray Allen at $3 million a season, even at 37 years old, and there’s no question he’ll produce something and be a valuable role player for the defending champions. However, to say he makes The Big Three into The Big Four is probably overstating it a little.
The rest of the league was going to have to a hard time catching up to Miami anyway; does the addition of Ray Allen really change what the other 29 teams have to do to unseat the HEAT?
Don’t Forget the Qualifying Offer, Guys
Over the course of the last week, we’ve heard of at least two restricted free agents—Eric Gordon and Nicolas Batum—imploring their former teams not to match their offer sheets and let them run off to new teams with zero compensation.
That, naturally, isn’t going to happen. New Orleans reportedly decided to match the max, $58 million offer sheet from the Phoenix Suns about seven seconds after hearing about it, while Portland’s feelings concerning Batum at over $11 million a season are a little more mixed. In both cases, however, these players seem so ready to bolt their current teams that they’re forgetting about an easier, less risky way to go about it—take the qualifying offer, play out the year, and then go sign with whomever you please.
Batum recently made a trip out to Portland with his agent, Bouna Ndiaye, to implore them to either consider a sign-and-trade with Minnesota or just let him walk away.
“His mind is not there in Portland,” Ndiaye told Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. “Hopefully, Paul Allen would never stand in the way of [Batum’s] dream to play for the Timberwolves.”
In other words, we sure do hope he just gives away this talented young player for nothing. We sure do hope he scraps this investment because a young kid came to him in person and asked him nicely to do so. Even at 4 years and $45 million, admittedly an overpayment, Batum has promise. If he was so dead-set on leaving, why open himself up to four more years in Portland when he could’ve spent only one more year there had he taken the QO?
Gordon’s situation is even sillier. Debate all you want about whether he’s worth a max contract or not, but New Orleans knew that offer was coming and had to have been waiting for it for months now. In their early negotiations with Gordon, the best they ever offered was four years at $50 million, apparently an insulting number to a young man who played fewer than ten games in his first season with the organization last year.
That apparent disrespect is what pushed Gordon to the Suns, and after making a statement immediately following his agreeing to sign the offer sheet, he made it known that his “heart” was in Phoenix. This past week in Las Vegas at Team U.S.A. activities, Gordon expounded on that a little more.
“If [the Hornets] were interested, there wouldn’t have been no tour, there wouldn’t have been nothing,” Gordon told Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “[If the Hornets match] as of right now, I’d be disappointed… I don’t think there is (anything that could change my mind.)”
Again, if Gordon was so unhappy in Louisiana, all he had to do was take the qualifying offer, wait a year, and then any team with appropriate cap space could have signed to whatever deal they wanted. New Orleans, though, isn’t going to just say “too-da-loo” to the gem of the Chris Paul trade because Eric Gordon didn’t get the offer he wanted. It doesn’t matter whether or not he changes his mind.
Perhaps some of these bad feelings are about young players not understanding how restricted free agency differs from unrestricted free agency. When an unrestricted player can go anywhere they want, the home team is on an equal playing field with the other 29 teams in the league and has to try and outbid other suitors. But when the free agent is restricted the home team can just sit back, let the market dictate the player’s value, and then make a call on whether or not to match the offer sheet. It’s not personal; it’s just business.
It’s what Batum, Gordon, and even Roy Hibbert, who it’s being said is leaning more towards playing in Portland these days rather than returning to Indiana, apparently don’t understand. The solution (playing out one more year on a qualifying offer) would’ve been pretty easy, but when hurt feelings and personal desires get in the way of the simplest, most logical end to a problem, players can end up stuck in a situation where they’re really not happy. That can lead to even bigger problems.
Just ask Dwight Howard about that.
Could Spain Steal Gold from Team U.S.A.?
The final roster for the U.S.A. Men’s Basketball team was announced on Saturday, when James Harden, Andre Iguodala, and Blake Griffin were named the final three players on the 12-man roster that will compete in London beginning later this month.
They beat out Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, and Anthony Davis to join the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler, and Kevin Love in the pursuit of a second straight Olympic gold medal for the U.S.
The question now is whether or not they’re good enough to win it.
Spain will be the toughest competition for the Americans, as they are essentially bringing back the same team that won the silver medal in 2008, minus the injured Ricky Rubio and plus the recently nationalized Serge Ibaka. Pau and Marc Gasol obviously are the team’s most recognizable faces, but Rudy Fernandez, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Sergio Llull are all names that should sound familiar to NBA fans, as well.
This is a team that has the benefit of having played together for a very, very long time, and outside of losing Rubio they’re stepping into this competition at essentially full strength.
The same, of course, can’t be said for the Americans, who have lost Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, and LaMarcus Aldridge to injuries. Had all five made the team the roster would look a whole lot different and we certainly wouldn’t be having the “Can they still do it?” conversation right now.
But as it is, this current iteration of Team U.S.A. is constructed of stars, sure, but not top-to-bottom superstars as had originally been the plan.
Of course, maybe it’s a good thing that players like Chandler, Iguodala, and Harden are part of the team, since they’ve got experience taking a backseat offensively. They could potentially help the U.S. play more of a team game, and whatever else you want to say about this group, there’s no shortage of confidence. This is a team that truly believes they should win the gold medal.
And they probably should. Spain might have blown through the European Championship last summer, and Ibaka is definitely a shiny new toy for the Spanish coaching staff to play with, but the U.S. still has probably seven of the top ten players in the entire tournament. That should be enough to get it done, despite the loss of all those superstars.
Team U.S.A. is still the defending gold medalist in basketball, after all, and it would sure take a lot to dethrone them. If anybody’s going to do it, though, Spain seems like the most dangerous possibility.