NBA 50 Greatest Players: Ray Allen (#42)

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Ray Allen is universally known for having one of the cleanest-looking jump shots in NBA history, but that meant very little to me when I was compiling this list. I couldn’t care less if someone’s jumper looks like Shawn Marion’s or Michael Jordan’s, as long as it’s effective. I’m really not sure why I started this article by pointing that out, but I felt that I needed to address it as the very first thing that follows Ray Allen’s name is “the prettiest jump shot in all of basketball”. I guess some fans are only interested in what looks good on the court, as opposed to being good.

With that being said, Ray Allen has had a remarkable career up until this point. He’s a two time NBA Champion (2008 and 2013) and holds the NBA record for most 3-pointers in the history of the league. He’s been selected to 10 all-star games but surprisingly only one all-NBA second team and only one third team. In 2001 he was a key part (we’ll get to this shortly) of the Milwaukee Bucks team that made it to the conference finals against the 76ers, and in 2005 he led the Sonics to the 2nd round of the playoffs before being eliminated by the eventual champion Spurs. From his rookie season in 97 up until being traded to Boston, those were the only two instances of him making it past the first round. From his second season (97/98) up until his last season in Boston (2010/11), Allen averaged 21 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.7 APG and shot nearly 40% 3PT and 90% FT’s. He also developed into a very capable on the ball defender in Boston and should receive more credit for that aspect of his game.

Leadership?

Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson were a terrific duo in Milwaukee

Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson were a terrific duo in Milwaukee

I’m going to just come out and say this: I don’t think Ray Allen has ever felt comfortable in being a leader. In Milwaukee, he was the team’s most recognisable player and if you look at the stats, was their best player. But that isn’t leadership. Derek Fisher never posted huge stats (except for the 2001 playoffs), but nobody ever questioned his leadership qualities. The Bucks were led by Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell, and Ray Allen was more of a star-role player, if that makes any sense. The offense was built around him, getting him the ball with plenty of space and screens, but if there was a critical part of the game, he was often M.I.A. Down 3-2 in the conference semi-finals against Charlotte, it was Sam Cassell that led Milwaukee in scoring. In game 7, it was Glenn Robinson. In game 6 of the conference finals against Philly, Ray Allen played about as flawless as possible in the first 3 quarters as anyone could have ever asked, scoring 35 points. But then as Iverson and the 76ers made a huge run (cutting a 30 point lead down to 11), Allen only scored 6 points in the fourth. Iverson, on the other hand, had scored 24 in the fourth. At the end of game 5, it was Glenn Robinson who took the final shot, not Ray Allen. In game 7, when Allen bumped knees with a player from Philadelphia and went to the locker room and The Bucks behind Cassell and Robinson cut into the lead with him off the court, but they couldn’t match Iverson’s 44 and 7 and they would go on to lose.

It’s hard to believe, but that would be the final playoff game Ray Allen would play for the Bucks. They actually led the central division at the all-star break, before becoming the first team to lead a division going into all-star weekend and failing to make the playoffs. Midway through the next season, Milwaukee traded Allen for an expiring contract in Gary Payton and Desmond Mason, and whilst his production went up significantly (24 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 4.1 APG), the Sonics would only make the playoffs once in his tenure there. He would then be traded to Boston for Delonte West and the 5th pick in the draft (Jeff Green). In Boston, Allen’s production went down but so did his role as was now the 3rd option behind Paul Pierce and Garnett. The Celtics would win 66 games with their new roster and march into the playoffs where Ray Allen would struggle big time in the first two rounds. In games 6 and 7 against Atlanta and the conference semi-finals against Cleveland, Allen would shoot 6 of 37 from 3 point range. No, that wasn’t a typo. 6 of 37 over 9 games. In that 7th and deciding game at home, Allen went 1 of 6 and scored 4 points. 4 points! This was in a close game 7 at home. In the next round against Detroit, Allen got his game together and rebounded to in my mind, become The Celtics best player in the NBA finals as Boston would claim its first NBA championship in over 20 seasons.

The next season, Boston would be without Garnett for the entire playoffs with a knee injury.

First Round (against Chicago)

23.4 PPG (45%FG, 47% 3PT) 3.1 RPG 2.1 APG 1.6 SPG

 

Next round versus Orlando

13.1 PPG (34% FG, 19% 3PT) 4.7 RPG 3.1 APG 0.6 SPG

 

Boston would drop the final 2 games, including game 7 at home, and lose the series. Ray Allen went from the team’s leading scorer in the first round to the 4th leading scorer in the second (behind Pierce, Rondo and Davis). In game 6 of the first round, he dropped 51 on The Bulls in a triple OT classic, and also hit the game winning (and series saving) 3 in game 2. In game 6 against Orlando, he scored 5 points and went 2 of 11 (0-7 from 3PT) from the field. With a healthy KG, the Celtics would make it back to the NBA finals. In game 2, Ray Allen had a legendary performance, setting the NBA record with 8 made 3 pointers en route to a 32 point game and Celtics victory. In game 3, he followed it up by going 0-13 from the field (0-8 from 3PT) as the Lakers came back and took the series lead.

For all the kudos Ray Allen receives for his ability to shoot, he was wildly inconsistent. It feels like (At least in Boston) that every great performance he had was countered with a horrific one. In 2012, he would leave Boston as a free agent to go play with Lebron, Wade and Bosh in Miami. Look, I don’t mind when a legend such as Karl Malone or Gary Payton accept a lesser role to go after a championship in their twilight years, but Ray Allen already had a ring. And for him to leave Boston and a 2 year, 12 million dollar offer to take half the money in Miami, and to say he was leaving because he didn’t want to come off the bench (something that Iverson was killed for when he was in Memphis) to do exactly that in Miami is insulting to anyone that respects the game. Ray Allen had plenty left in the tank to be a starter for the Clippers, the Knicks, The Pacers, Chicago, San Antonio etc., but he left to play in Miami, the team that Boston lost a heartbreaking game 7 to the season before, and he sits around wondering why the city of Boston took it personally when he left? You’ve got to be kidding me.

There is a lot to be said for players, the greats, which have maximised their bodies and overachieved. The Kobe Bryants, the Larry Birds, the Steve Nashs of the world. Ray Allen, for all his physical gifts, has underachieved. It is important to also realise that everywhere he has gone (with the exception of Miami) he has clashed with teammates. In Milwaukee, he feuded with Glenn Robinson. In Seattle, it was Rashard Lewis. In Boston, it was Rondo. For this perception that Allen has created of being a classy athlete, his actions and track record completely contradict it.

I might come across as bitter in my analysis of Ray Allen here, but I’m not, I’m just incredibly disappointed that he seemed to be much more interested in his image than pushing himself to being the best player he could be. He deserves this spot in the 50 greatest NBA players of the 3 point era, but he could have, and should have, been higher (we’re talking at least 20 spots higher) had he achieved his potential that we saw at times in 2001. He was carried to two championships by his teammates, and made franchises essentially give him away for nothing (Milwaukee parted with him for Desmond Mason, Seattle got rid of him for the 5th pick in the draft). He’s almost like a politician, and it won’t be until people look back once he’s gone will we wonder how we rated him so highly. One of the key elements of being a great player is making those around you better. I can’t think of one player that peaked alongside him apart from Glenn Robinson, and even then I’m not convinced that was because of Ray Allen.

Vince Carter vs Ray Allen

Both Carter and Allen are former Olympic teammates.

Both Carter and Allen are former Olympic teammates.

Both players were prominent in 2001 and pushed the 76ers to 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals before losing. Ray Allen had Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell and Tim Thomas. Vince Carter had Antonio Davis, Charles Oakley and Alvin Williams. Carter had some massive performances in that series and came within one shot of knocking off Philly. Both players declined after that season, but trades (Carter to New Jersey, Allen to Seattle) brought their careers back to life and became prominent scorers. Both guys lead their teams to the second round (Allen in 2005, Carter in 2006) before losing to the eventual champs (Spurs and Heat). Carter was better equipped at carrying the offensive load for a team, whilst Allen was more comfortable in being a 3rd or 4th option. They both realised the importance of defence later in their careers and became good on the ball defenders. If i’m to choose Carter or Allen in their prime, I’d take Vince Carter. If I have to choose who had a better career, it’s Ray Allen.

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