• While Tony Allen immediately becomes New Orleans's best defensive stopper, his value mostly stops there. The Grindfather's flaws will only illuminate the Pelicans' problems even further.
By Rohan Nadkarni
September 12, 2017

The Grindfather is trading in Beale Street for Bourbon Street. Tony Allen signed a one-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans for the veteran's minimum, The Vertical reported Monday. Allen had spent the last seven years with the Grizzlies, but found himself floating in free agency this summer after Memphis opted for a slight youth movement this offseason.

In Allen, the Pelicans are getting one of the most tenacious defenders in the league. He's the man who made the phrase “First-Team All Defense” a legitimate way to trash talk opponents. And he still put opponents in his trademark vise grip last season, making the All-Defense team for the sixth time in seven years. Allen is now 35, but he still figures to see a healthy amount of playing time for the Pelicans, who are particularly thin at small forward after a hamstring injury to Solomon Hill.

Allen immediately becomes New Orleans’s best defensive stopper, but his value mostly stops there. Allen can charitably be described as an adventure on offense, where he's always been a shaky shooter at best. That‘s a serious issue for the Pelicans, who are already seriously strapped when it comes to three-point marksmen. If New Orleans plays Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins with Allen, Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday, Davis and Cousins could end up being the biggest three-point threats on the court, which is not exactly what the team expected when creating its frontcourt tandem.

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In a vacuum, signing Allen at the vet minimum is a good deal for practically any team. He brings old-man know-how, and he can still be counted on to compete with just about any superstar scorer in the league. But the Pelicans, particularly in the gunslinging West, are in desperate need of shooting, and it‘s hard to imagine Allen doing much to move the needle. They might have been better off signing Ray Allen over Tony Allen.

Outside of Davis and Cousins, New Orleans’s roster leaves a lot to be desired. Rondo is a headcase whose most recent postseason performance covered up what was a tumultuous regular season. Holiday is a talented player who hasn’t proven he can be a legitimate difference maker but is now being paid like one. And the bench is essentially a pile of warm bodies.

The issue for the Pelicans is that they desperately need to nail each roster move they make. The clock is ticking on Davis, and while a signing like Allen’s won’t exactly determine his future, it is an indication of how difficult it will be for the front office to upgrade the roster. This New Orleans team could have likely dominated in the late ‘90s, but it remains unclear how these pieces will fit in the 21st century.

We’ll enjoy Allen on the Pelicans. Him and Davis will make life miserable for opposing forwards. Him and Cousins will instantly form the league’s premier mean-mugging duo. But the fun won’t last if the Pels don’t make a big step forward. And for now, New Orleans has yet to make a move to truly keep up with the loaded West.

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