Ray Allen is the greatest long-range shooter of all-time, and yet he’s universally understood to be number three in the Big Three org chart. He’s the oldest, the slowest, and the shakiest on defense, but also arguably the most reliable of the bunch: Ray’s sat a total of seven games over the last three seasons, and his shooting stats have barely wavered since he arrived in Boston.
As he enters his walk year, it’s time to start asking how much more the Celtics can ask of Ray Allen, who might be aging better than any guard in the NBA before him.
1. Ray is 36 years old. How much longer will he play in the NBA?
Ryan DeGama: Until the next labor dispute? No reason to think Allen can’t make it through six more years considering he set career highs in FG% and 3P% last season and his primary offensive responsibilities are now run, catch and release. Like Paul Pierce, Allen’s proving a role model on how to age gracefully in the NBA. They’re going to write books about him. Or blog posts, at least.
Brendan Jackson: At least to 40. His days of being a starting shooting guard are already numbered, but his ability on the offensive end was still as high as ever last season. When I say “ability,” I mean two things: spot up shooting and running his defender off picks. The value of Allen’s ability to tire out his opponent cannot be understated. I’m excited to see his role eventually change to perennial Sixth Man of the Year.
Brian Robb: At least three more seasons. Allen is a specimen who takes great pride in maintaining his body. He also is still putting up the best shooting numbers of his career, to help counter other areas of the game that have suffered with his advanced age. With that said, there will always be a market for pure outside shooting in this league, and despite a track record of 35 year-old shooting guards showing sharp declines in their shooting numbers, Allen is the clear exception to that rule. I give him three more seasons, and I wouldn’t be surprised even if he makes it past that.
2. At this point in his career, do Ray’s offensive contributions outweigh his defensive shortcomings?
Ryan DeGama: Yes. Now the caveat: We all know what Ray’s shooting does to open up the floor, but his lack of shot-creating ability is increasingly a concern in Boston’s middling offense. The caveat to that caveat is that his defense is better than advertised; you can still trust his intensity defending guys like Wade and Kobe in the playoffs.
Brendan Jackson: For sure. I am just not sure how long those defensive shortcomings can remain in the starting lineup. At the same time, Allen’s defensive shortcomings are overstated. To be fair, everyone looks terrible guarding Dwyane Wade.
Brian Robb: Yes. Again, while Allen struggles with a lot more of the athletic players in the NBA, he still works hard most nights on the defensive end and does well within Boston’s defensive philosophy given his limitations. Sure, he’ll look bad on occasion, but the C’s still ranked near the top of the league in defensive efficiency last year and Allen was on the floor for a lot of those minutes. On the other side, the C’s have struggled to put the ball in the basket the last few seasons, making Allen an even more valuable commodity to them given their lack of reliable outside shooters. The C’s have to hope this trend continues this year.
3. Assuming he doesn’t decline much from last year, what kind of contract would you give Ray to resign with the Celtics after this season?
Ryan DeGama: Something along the lines of 2 years for $12M (total) sounds about right, but that might not be enough to lure him back, assuming there’s even a fit in Boston. He’ll have plenty of suitors and the Celtics may go a different direction at the shooting guard and 6th man spots in the rebuild. Which makes this a good place to drop in an arbitrary Flo Allen reference. Enjoy her and Ray while you can. This could be their last go-round in Boston.
Brendan Jackson: If Allen is going to sign with the Celtics again, he’s going to do so with the understanding that the majority of the cap room is going to the best player available. Whatever is left over will be allocated appropriately. Right now, it’s too hard to gauge Allen’s worth because it will fluctuate depending on who the Celtics’ main target is.
Brian Robb: Probably the toughest question Ainge is facing at this point. In order to be able to add a major free agent after next season, Ainge will likely have to renounce both Garnett and Allen in order to have the cap flexibility to a big name such as Dwight Howard. The other real way of doing that, and also signing Allen would be for Ray to take a major discount, far below what he could get on the open market. If Ainge comes up empty on big free agency names, I see no problem with giving Ray another two-year deal (second year as option) for mid-level money (5-6 million), as long as his shooting numbers don’t drop too much. Both sides are clearly comfortable with each other, and might as well keep things going while they can, instead of bringing in younger but inferior talent.