Written by: John Bray (@44ShadesOfBray)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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As we approach the NBA All-Star break, a highly sought after free agent reports that his decision is coming. Ray Allen has spent the past few months golfing and enjoying family time at his Miami residence, and it appears that he is ready to make his triumphant return for a 19th NBA season.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and Los Angeles Clippers are the contenders vying for Allen’s services.
Last season with the Miami Heat, Allen shot 38 percent from 3-point range during the regular season and playoffs, in which he appeared in 93 games combined. At this stage in Allen’s career, he will be asked to come off the bench, camp in the corner, and knock down 3-pointers when called upon.
Undoubtedly Allen is going to a top contender, and its up to him and his representatives to determine who that is. There is no way he would put his body through half an NBA season, unless he felt like his team could hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.
Let’s take a deeper look into what might be going through Allen’s head:
The Clippers are fading. After dropping five of their last eight, the Clippers do not look nearly as strong as they did in the early going. An injury to Blake Griffin (Staph Infection) surely has not helped them as of late, but I still can’t see Allen joining the Clippers.
I am not entirely sure how badly the Warriors and Spurs need Allen, or if they just want to make sure he doesn’t sign with a potential Eastern Conference foe. In my opinion, of these two, Golden State would be a better fit. The Warriors rank third in the league at 3-point attempts per game, and second in 3-point shooting percentage. Their style offers Allen the opportunity to reprieve Klay Thompson and roam around the 3-point line.
Unfortunately for all you Warriors, Spurs, and Clippers fans, the Western Conference is too wide open and I don’t think Allen will take that gamble. Plus, moving west will drive him further away from his family, which has always been a priority.
Coming back to the Heat only makes sense if Allen wishes to stay close to his family. The Heat are, by all accounts, a very average team. They are currently under .500 in an extremely top heavy Eastern Conference. If Allen were going to come back to Miami, he would’ve signed a deal earlier in the season.
The best thing that the Wizards have going for them is that a Paul Pierce-Ray Allen reunion would be awesome for nostalgic basketball fans. He would also be the ideal back up for Bradley Beal, enabling Rasual Butler to move back to his natural small forward position. However, talks between the two parties have seemed to simmer down since early January.
Leaving us with our top two contenders, the Hawks and Cavs. This is where things get interesting. Recently more and more reports are coming out about the Hawks reaching out to Allen and his interest growing. On Tuesday, the Hawks opened up a roster spot by sending rookie forward Adreian Payne to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a heavily protected 2017 first round draft pick. The trade puts Atlanta about $5 million under the salary cap. This move clearly shows that Atlanta is serious about the possibility of landing Allen or another veteran shooter for the second half of the season. Allen would fit in perfectly with the Hawks unselfish style. Bringing Allen off the bench and pairing him with Kyle Korver would be a deadly combination, and would open the floor for Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford. I think the addition of Allen would definitely make the Hawks the favorite out of the Eastern Conference.
On the Cavs front, LeBron James has been recruiting Allen heavily throughout the season, even stopping to talk with him when James flew to Miami for his mid-season vacation days. The easy answer is to say Allen joins his old Heat teammates, LeBron, Mike Miller, James Jones (one of his closest friends), and assumes his role as a deadeye corner shooter, feeding off of LeBron and Kyrie Irving kick outs. However, the Cavs have not sounded too optimistic when asked about the possibility of adding Allen to their roster.
“With him, we’d be great. Without him, we’re going to be great as well. It would be a great addition. We’ll see what he does.”
Not exactly the tone that Cavs fans want to hear from LeBron in regards to adding an important piece.
Finally Allen’s last option, remain retired and look back on a fulfilled career as a two-time NBA champion, ten-time all-star, and one of the game’s greatest 3-point shooters. Allen’s agents have come out this week telling members of the media that Allen has not made a decision on whether to play or not. Personally, I think they are just trying to leverage this into getting their client as much money as possible. Allen has been working hard and staying in great basketball shape. I don’t think he would put in all that work to simply announce that he is not coming back.
After all this, I think Ray Allen is coming to The Land. He has connections there and it’s a role he is comfortable in. The Cavs finally look like a real contender and I think that will be the deciding factor in Allen’s decision.
But Hawks fans, don’t worry. The Timberwolves will most likely buyout the recently acquired Gary Neal who will turn around and sign with the Hawks, reuniting with his old coach, Mike Budenholzer, so at least you have that fall back option.