Ray Allen will not play forever. As strange as it is to imagine a league where Allen is not uncorking that perfect, compact shooting motion and mechanically burying corner threes, there’s a chance he’s logged his final season. Speaking to the Hartford Courant at a youth basketball camp last month, Allen sounded at ease with the prospect of calling it quits. "I'm not in any rush [to make a decision]," Allen said. "I've played 18 years, and the way I look at my career, I'm content with everything that I've done. I just want to take this summer and see how it goes." If Allen, an unrestricted free agent, does decide he wants to play at least one more season, he will not have any issues finding a team willing to take him.
Even at 39, Allen offers considerable value if he lands in the right situation. His production has remained relatively steady in part because he takes such good care of his body. Allen may not have the athleticism he flashed at the annual slam dunk contest nearly two decades ago, but he’s still fit enough to execute his best and most important skill: running around the perimeter and hunting long-range looks. And make no mistake, Allen can still throw down. Many have pointed out that some of his statistics dipped last season – including points per game (10.9 to 9.6) and three-point field goal percentage (41.9 to 37.5). Yet one only needed to watch one game of last season’s playoffs to understand the threat Allen poses for defenses.
Even if Allen’s not lacing clutch treys in playoff crunch time, his presence alone opens up opportunities for other scorers because defenses can’t leave him open. Further, despite a decline in his counting statistics, Allen still shot the ball well last season. His effective field goal percentage, which puts extra weight on three-point shots, was the eighth highest of his career, and he still drained threes from one corner at an impressive clip.
At this stage of his career, Allen’s clearly no longer suited to shoulder the bulk of a team’s offensive production. But as a complementary scorer on a team gunning for a championship, he’s practically a perfect fit. Which is why it’s no surprise that earlier this summer Allen was reportedly leaning toward joining the Cavaliers. In Cleveland, Allen would be familiar working with the league’s best player, having lined up alongside him for two seasons in Miami. It’s easy to picture LeBron driving and kicking to an open Allen in the corner, with defenses scrambling to contest his shot – yet one more scoring option for a team that already figures to be an offensive juggernaut.
Other reportedly interested teams include the Clippers, Spurs and Wizards. All of them figure to make the playoffs and potentially contend for a title. Allen could be keen on re-joining Doc Rivers, who coached him for five seasons in Boston, on a roster that could use another shooter after coming up short against the Thunder in last season’s playoffs. Or perhaps a better landing spot is Washington, where Allen would join Paul Pierce, another former Boston running mate to bolster a perimeter group that already features John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Spurs make plenty of sense, too, though they’d first need to forgive Allen for breaking their hearts with one of the most clutch playoff threes in history.
Whichever team Allen decides on – if he decides to play at all– his role would not differ much from what is was the past two seasons in Miami. His shooting can help push a title contender over the top. As the beginning of training camp looms, teams fitting this profile would do well to ramp up their recruitments of him. The winner of the Allen sweepstakes could be rewarded handsomely next spring.