Appreciating GPA part 1: Ray Allen



Intro: As I hang around the various Celtics boards, I think that we all are guilty of taking for granted just how amazing Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are as basketball players.  Some of it isn’t our fault, because the majority of their history came separately on different teams, so most of the folks on here now have only followed at most one of the three in depth over their careers pre-2007.  Because of that, many of us mainly have only what we’ve seen this last 1.5 years by which to judge them as players…and that isn’t enough.  We all say “they had to sacrifice” in order to make this team work, but I don’t think that really resonates with our gut when we go to evaluate them as players.  When talking about the Celtics vs. other teams the national media almost always lumps them in as a “Big Three” while giving the Kobes, LeBrons, and Duncan’s solo star billing…this tends to make many of us forget that, on their own, Allen/Pierce/Garnett are all All-time greats in their own rights (and in some cases as good/better than some of the other players that get more attention).

So to that end, I’m going to do a (long) post on each of the 3.  I’m going to talk about their strengths/weaknesses, their individual and team accomplishments pre-2007, what they’ve given up and gained in joining the Celtics in 2007, and their place in history.  And I’m going to start off with our own Jesus Shuttlesworth, Mr. Walter Ray Allen.

Skills: Ray Allen is arguably the best pure shooter in NBA history.  Let that marinate for a minute, then consider that he is also so much more than that.  Allen’s long-range jumper is a thing of beauty, with excellent form, a quick release and metronomic consistency.  As Allen once pointed out in a commercial, when his jumper is on…it is ON.  But in addition to the jumper, Allen is also one of the more athletic swingmen in the NBA as evidenced by his participation in the 1997 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.  Allen’s preparation and physical fitness are legendary.  He has adequate ball-handling skills for a SG, which combined with the threat of his jumper and his athleticism combine to make Allen a good scorer going to the rim as well.  Finally, Ray is an ultra competitor with ice water in his veins when it comes time to take the big shot.  In short, Allen is one of the best shooting guards of his generation and one of the most versatile of the “pure shooters” in NBA history.

Team accomplishments/teammates: In his 11 pre-07 seasons, Allen’s teams compiled an end-season record of 427 – 443.  Allen was always one of the top team options on his teams, and basically had 2 careers: 1) Milwaukee Bucks, with Glen Robinson and Sam Cassell as his running mates and 2) Seattle Supersonics, with Rashard Lewis and role players as his sidekicks.  Allen’s teams made the playoffs in 4 of those 11 years, 3 times in Milwaukee and once in Seattle.  Allen’s teams tended to have offensive talent, but over his 11 years only 5 times did a teammate make the All Star Team next to him (Vin Baker in 97 and 98 {Allen’s first 2 seasons}, Robinson in 01 and 02, and Lewis in ’05).

Allen’s best two teams were the ’01 Bucks and the ’05 Sonics, both of which went 52 – 30.  The 01 Bucks, led by Allen/Robinson/Cassell went to the ECF and lost in 7 games to the 76ers.  The 05 Sonics made the 2nd round in the stacked Western Conference led by Allen with Lewis as his lieutenant, but bowed out to the Spurs in 6.  Allen was ridiculous in both of those playoffs runs, averaging roughly 26 points, 5 assists and 4 boards in 29 playoff games over those 2 seasons. 

Stats and Awards: Allen was a 7-time All Star, twice made All NBA team (3rd team in ’01, 2nd team in ’05), and twice was top-15 in MVP votes (best finish 9th in ’05).  Allen is 2nd All time in 3-ptrs made (Reggie Miller), is 6th All time in free throw percentage, and has four top-10 finishes in season points/game (best 6th, ’07).  In the advanced stats, Allen has twice finished top-10 in True Shooting Percentage (best 2nd 01); 3-times top-10 in Offensive Rating (best 2nd 01), 5-times top-10 in Offensive Win Shares (best 1st, 01) and once finished top-10 in total Win Shares (3rd, 01).

Great Player Comparison: For Allen’s contemporaries, I chose 3 of the best pure shooter/scorers of the past 25 years: Reggie Miller, Glen Rice, and Allen Houston.  Here is how the stats comparison of their first 11 years looks on basketball-reference:

The summary: Allen leads the whole group in scoring, 3s made, FT%, assists, and steals.  He is competitive with them across the board, leading the group in PER but trailing Miller in Win Shares and Offensive/Defensive Rating differential.

Place on the 07-08 Celtics:

“Losses”: Allen has been at worst the first among equals as a team option since early in his career, and for much of his Seattle career he was both the primary scorer and the primary offensive engine for the team.  He was a legitimate 25-point/5-rebound/5-assist threat for many seasons of his career, and in this role he led two 50-win teams into the postseason.  For these Celtics, though, he has been shunted to a 3rd option on offense who is almost purely a shooter…he very rarely gets the chance to create offense unless it is with the 2nd team.  Allen has ceded primary offense initiator role to Pierce and Rondo, and even the secondary initiator role to KG.  As such, Allen has gone through long stretches of not getting nearly the touches/shots that he’s used to, which can negatively affect a shooter/scorer.  His counting numbers are down across the board, giving up a good portion of the numbers that made him unique.  Also, he has given up the “Big Dawg” role in his legacy…a lot of his legacy will be built on his role on championship teams, and as the 3rd option he no longer will be compared historically with the Kobe Bryants of the world (which has to gall him, since he has always had a fierce competition with Bryant since they came out in the same draft class in ’96).

“Gains”: The obvious: Allen has at least one championship ring and the possibility for more, completing his great player resume.  He has the ring that Reggie and Houston never got, and he’s playing a larger role on the Celts than Rice did for the Lakers which gives Allen a leg-up in the “All-time best shooter/scorer” rankings.  Numbers-wise, in trading in his volume stats Allen’s efficiency is through the roof (he is on pace to shatter his career-highs in FG%, FT%, True Shooting %, and Offensive Rating).  This efficiency dramatically helps spread the floor for the Celtics’ offense, and is his single-biggest contribution to the squad.  Also, his clutch shooting, clutch free throws, and athleticism/intelligence on defense make him invaluable to the team in ways that show up primarily in intangible stats like +/- or, more importantly, in the Wins/Losses categories.

 Bottom line: Allen is one of the best shooting guards of his generation, one of the best shooter/scorers of All Time, and is more than just a “member of the Big Three” as the media tends to lump him…Ray Allen has game!


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