Ray Allen‘s $19 million expiring deal generated a lot of chatter over whether the C’s should trade him, and it certainly appears they tried. I’m not here to tell you that’s a bad thing. It’s good to have a proactive general manager, and it’s true that Ray Allen is 34 with past ankle problems.
But here’s the thing about trading Ray Allen: It would mean a huge adjustment to the C’s offense, because there are very few players in the league who can shoot three-pointers as often and as accurately as Ray. Defenders have to be constantly vigilant, and that vigilance creates space for the other four players to operate. The current roster has no player like him. Paul Pierce can shoot threes, but his come in transition or in those random moments where he finds himself with a few feet of space in the flow of the offense. Pierce rarely shoots threes by design. Eddie House can shoot ‘em with anybody, but he’s rarely going to play even 20 minutes in a big game.
Ray will play 40. And he’s a very, very unique weapon. How unique?
Only 15 players in the history of the NBA have hit at least 40 percent of their three-pointers in a season in which they attempted at least six threes per game and played enough to qualify for the scoring title–and they’ve combined to do that in just 19 individual seasons, according to Basketball Reference.
Here are the top 11 seasons, ranked in order of best three-point shooting percentage. (Why 11? Because Ray’s 2008-09 season was the 11th-best).
Ray did that last year, and he’s done it three times in his career–more than anyone else in the history of the NBA. Peja Stojakovic and Rashard Lewis have done it twice. No one else has made the cut more the once. Reggie Miller–once. Paul Pierce–once. Dennis Scott–once.
The list of players grows if you loosen the criteria a bit, but that only reinforces Allen’s rarity as a shooter. If you lower the minutes-played requirement to include all players who qualified for the three-point shooting title, you get 46 individual seasons. If you lower the minutes requirement even further by including players who launched six threes per 36 minutes (instead of per game), you get 61 individual seasons–the equivalent of about two guys per season.
(Side note: If Simmons can be the Picasso of the Trade Machine, can I be the Rembrandt of the Basketball Reference Full Court function? Give me something).
Having a high-volume three-point shooter who can actually shoot has a dramatic effect on a team’s offense. Jon Nichols studied this for point guards recently, and found that a high-percentage, high-volume shooter at the PG spot sends an offense into the historically-elite stratosphere. An offense with that sort of PG significantly out-performs even an offense with an accurate shooter who doesn’t shoot as much, according to Nichols’ preliminary numbers.
The effect for shooting guards probably isn’t as statistically significant, since there are more good three-point shooters among two guards than PGs.
Still, when I thought about trading Ray Allen for Tyreke Evans or trading a Ray-Rondo package for Prince-Hamilton-Stuckey, my first thought was always: How are we going to replace the three-point shooting?
Because the offense would look an awful lot different without it.