Paul Pierce is the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Rajon Rondo stole plenty of early-season headlines with his record-breaking assist totals. And the resurgence of a dominant Kevin Garnett has arguably been the biggest reason for the Celtics’ success.
But Ray Allen is quietly playing some of the best basketball of his Hall of Fame career.
The traditional box-score numbers won’t blow you away: 17 ppg, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists. Very solid, of course, but still nowhere near the numbers he posted in Milwaukee and Seattle. And with a Player Efficiency Rating of 17.28, Ray comes in at 70th in John Hollinger’s rankings. That would place him behind guys like Grant Hill, Wilson Chandler and Jason Terry, just to name a few.
But anyone who watches this team play on a regular basis can tell you that Ray has been almost perfect in terms of fulfilling his role for this particular Celtics’ team. Just shows up to work every day, runs 1000 miles around screens, and makes a ton of shots. He’s a leader on the court, and in the locker room. And at age 35, he looks to be in the best shape of his career. Is he a lockdown defender? Not usually. But he tries harder than just about anybody and that’s all you can really ask for, right?
However, the intangible qualities that Ray possesses should not diminish how SPECTACULAR his play has been this season. Have you looked at his shooting statistics lately? They’re incredible:
Here’s another stat for you:
Guess how many unassisted 3’s Ray has made this year? Whatever you guessed, go a little lower. And then a little lower than that. The answer is 1.
That’s right. The Celtics have assisted on 46 out of the 47 three-pointers that Ray has made this season (98%). If that isn’t the definition of a player getting his points through the natural flow of the offense, I honestly don’t know what is.
LeBron:. 66% (34% last year with Cavs)
During Ray’s final season with Seattle, this percentage was at 80%, and that’s exactly what it was in his first season with the Celtics. This being Ray’s fourth season in Boston, we might have a tendency to just assume that Ray has been a catch-and-shoot player his entire career. But I hope we haven’t lost sight of the fact that Ray had to adjust his game the most when the Big Three was assembled in 2007. Pierce still got the ball. KG still got the ball. They just got less of it. Ray, however, has re-invented himself during his time with the Celtics.
Here’s something Ray said after the Pacers game on Sunday.
“I’m known for what I’ve been doing here while I’ve been in this role, but my whole career I’ve had to create opportunities for myself…be a playmaker for other guys on the team…try to give younger guys the ball, so I don’t have to do that as much here.”
Listen, I’m not suggesting Ray didn’t run off screens or catch-and-shoot when he was with the Bucks or Sonics. He did. But I don’t think he gets enough credit for how hard he’s worked to effectively transform his game over the past few years.
Sometime in the spring, though, when Ray passes Reggie Miller as the all-time leading three-point shooter, he’s going to get all the credit he deserves.