It’s easy to see the value of Ray Allen when he breaks a record for three pointers made in a single finals game, and ties in it the first half. A true professional seemingly since the time he left UConn for the NBA, Jesus Shuttlesworth has earned his own place among the stars. He is an unrestriced free agent this summer. Will he be tempted to follow his assistant coach west, and put on the red, black, and white. Let’s hope so. A top priority for the front office this summer ought to be signing Allen away from the Celtics, or adding a SG that emulates his game as closely as possible.
What makes Allen such a key part of the Boston offense? A quick answer is his shooting ability, spaces the floor, which is true, but it is much more than that. According to 82games.com, his net plus minus was +12 over the regular season; Boston was an elite team (+7.1) when he was on the floor, and terrible (-4.9 points) when he was not.
More than just his shooting stroke, Ray Allen is a consummate “Tag, You’re It!” shooting guard; always in motion, utilizing screens, forcing his cover to chase him tirelessly down the baseline, across the arc, down to the key and back again. This off ball motion is critical to Boston’s offensive system, which relies on Rondo and Pierce to make plays for others. When Allen leaves the floor, it is easy for players to stand around and watch, for the ball to get sticky, and stay on one side. Ray Allen is effectively a third playmaker for the Celtics, making plays for himself and his teammates by his constant motion without the ball.
It’s why I wince when I hear people say that all Derrick Rose needs is a shooting guard that can spot up and hit open threes. Especially if the improbable does happen, and the Bulls do end up winning the LeBron sweepstakes this summer, a “Tag, You’re It!” shooting guard is a must-have to ensure the offense is more than Derrick and LeBron taking turns running pick and rolls.
I’m not sure there is a true “Tag, You’re It!” SG in this draft. I want James Anderson to be, but I haven’t seen enough of his game to be sure, and his combine results (and slow agility drills) make me wonder whether he is quick enough to excel in that role. Paul George is too big (though he’d be great as a 2/3 defender and shooter/slasher). Ditto Xavier Henry. Jordan Crawford has the right body type, good quicks and a shooter’s swag, but didn’t show a lot of off the ball aptitude at Xavier, and would have to completely rewire his game. All in all, the draft leaves me cold.
In free agency, there is obviously Ray Allen, the paragon himself, and there is also J.J. Reddick, who plays the same way, but doesn’t have Ray’s ability to finish around the rim. Both would be great additions, but Ray will probably retire in Boston and J.J. is restricted. Morrow can shoot, but hasn’t been asked to play tag in Golden State, and I’m not sure he can.
The last option would be to trade for an established player. Richard Hamilton is a name that leaves a bad taste in my mouth but comes to mind immediately. He doesn’t shoot as many threes as you like, but he does play tag without the ball. Could you trade Kirk Hinrich for Hamilton and receive a sweetner like Jonas Jerebko for the contract difference (Kirk has one less year, and much less money, on his deal)? Could Rudy Fernandez become that type of player? No sure bets here; if I’m missing somebody, let me know in the comments.
If I had to rank by personal preference, I would probably go:
1. Ray Allen
2. JJ Reddick
3. Rip Hamilton
4. James Anderson
5. Rudy Fernandez
6. Jordan Crawford
So how about it? What kind of SG would you like to see suit up next to Rose next year?