According to multiple sources, the Grizzlies have been in talks with Ray Allen about bringing the free agent sharpshooter to Beale Street. Rumors have flown about the length and size of the contract, but that’s a secondary concern as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think they should grossly overpay for him, but given their limitations in what they could sign him to, that’s not really an issue. Whether it’s the full mid-level exception (MLE) or something smaller, 2 years or 3 years, that’s not as important to me as how the future Hall of Famer would fit in on this squad.
What does Ray Allen do? Why…he shoots threes. Ray Allen ranked in the top 5 in 3-pointers made and percentage this past season. What do the Grizzlies need? Why…they need a consistent perimeter threat.
Match made in heaven? Could be. Let’s look at what the rest of the roster will likely be in order to figure out how Ray-Ray would fit in.
Grizzlies’ Free Agents
Marreese Speights (Restricted)
Darrell Arthur (Restricted)
O.J. Mayo (Unrestricted)
Hamed Haddadi (Unrestricted)
Gilbert Arenas (Unrestricted)
Lester Hudson (Unrestricted)
The Grizzlies made the qualifying offer (QO) to Mo and DA, ensuring their ability to match any offer they might get from another team. They did not do that with Mayo though, essentially assuring that he won’t be playing for Memphis next year, although the possibility of a sign-and-trade does still exist. Hamed Haddadi might be back on a small contract. Arenas and Hudson are probably both gone. That leaves us with a roster that looks like this:
PG: Mike Conley, Jeremy Pargo, Josh Selby, Tony Wroten
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Rudy Gay, Quincy Pondexter
PF: Zach Randolph, Marreese Speights/Darrell Arthur, Dante Cunningham
C: Marc Gasol
That makes ten players under contract, with at least one of the two RFA PF/C’s likely to return as well. So where is the hole at? If you said Shooting Guard, then you are correct. Let’s assume that the team rolls out the same starting lineup of Conley/Allen/Gay/Randolph/Gasol next season. That leaves the primary bench players as Pondexter, Speights/Arthur, Cunningham, and whomever comes out of the locked room between Pargo, Selby, and Wroten. (This locked room PG battle reference comes to you courtesy of HPTMatt’s laughter.) So, they are lacking a backcourt scorer in that mix. No more Mayo = no more perimeter threat.
Enter Ray Allen.
Let’s talk about Ray Allen. Ray Allen is the consummate professional. He understands his role, rarely ever tries to do too much, and is the kind of on-court leader that other players respect. He is in the twilight of his career, now preparing to enter his 17th season in the league. He’s not as quick as he once was, although he is still one of the most physically fit players due to his incredible work ethic and dedication to practice.
His scoring of 14.2 ppg was his second lowest output of his entire career. Yet…that’s still better than Mayo’s scoring average was. Nearly half of his field goal attempts were three-pointers, which he hit at a 45.3% clip (Mayo – 36.4%). He still hits better than 90% of his free throws, too. In addition to that, Ray Allen brings two things that you cannot measure or put a price on: a championship lineage and veteran leadership.
What changed this team two years ago? Tony Allen. Grit & Grind was born on the blood, sweat, and tears of that particular junkyard dog. Who better to bring in to push this team one rung higher on the ladder of success than TA’s former Celtic teammate? A guy who just so happens to fit every need the Grizzlies currently have for a 6th man.
If they sign Ray Allen, and then re-sign either Speights or Arthur (or both) and bring in another big man to fill out the roster if only one is re-signed, Memphis could be looking at their most balanced roster ever. If either Josh Selby or Tony Wroten prove to be able to handle backup PG duties, then this team could do even better than it has the past two seasons. That’s quite a bit to wrap one’s head around, given that this team was a dark horse pick by many to make the Finals last year.
Ray Allen could be the missing piece that makes the Memphis Grizzlies the team to beat in the Western Conference next season.