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Ray Allen's Hot Start: A Brief Look at a Living Legend

Note: Please welcome our newest author - Josh Zavadil

Throughout the history of professional basketball there have been many legendary players. Some of them have aged like gods, and others have looked like Steve Nash looked like when he was 28. Rather, they have not aged very well. And then there's Ray Allen. "Old Man Ray" seems like a fitting folk name for Allen. He's not getting any younger. He's not getting any more hair on top of that head, but he is getting one thing -- buckets. Plenty of them.

Ray Allen came into this season just like any of his previous seasons in the league. He worked out like a maniac -- oftentimes sneaking into gyms during the lockout in order to workout and get shots up -- and entered training camp seemingly in normal "Ray Allen" shape. That is, pristine condition. Sure, he's 36. Sure, he'll be 37 this July 20th. However, that doesn't detract from the fact that Ray Allen is still entering each season like it's his time to become a star. Over the course of his lengthy career, Allen has only missed 143 total days due to injury. Occasionally, he will sit out of game because of sickness. Rarely does he serve lengthy injury time. If you wanted a perfect example for young players around the league as to how to treat your body, and to get it ready for the long haul, Ray Allen is that example.

Still, at 36 years old, Allen has not been able to do everything that he used to be able to do. For instance, in Milwaukee and Seattle he could still take the ball off of the dribble and create his own shot. Never has Ray Allen been the strongest player on the court, but he has always been available to create something out of nothing. Time and time again he has taken the ball off of a screen during his time in Boston, and the defense has closed out on him very well. The defense usually chases him off of his spot, and cause him to attempt to drive baseline. On numerous occasions he has tried to drive baseline, failed, and thrown up a crazy turnaround jumper. And he's hit it.

Despite the prolonged lockout, Allen has displayed superb fitness this season, and assisted the Celtics in ways no other player on their roster could have even thought of helping. He opened the season against the Knicks shooting 7-12 from the field, and 2-3 from behind the arc. Those three-point baskets were crucial in Boston's efforts to get back into the game. Against Miami, Ray shot 8-12 from the field, and 6-8 from three-point range. Yes, he hit six three-point field goals against Miami. For as many years as he's been in the league hitting jumper after jumper after jumper after jumper, you would think teams would learn to not allow him to get open. Ever. Apparently, teams don't have a solid grasp on that yet.

Against the Hornets, Allen shot 5-10 from the floor, and 4-8 from beyond the arc. Allen continued his torrid pace against the Pistons where he shot 5-9 from the field, and 2-5 from distance. The Wizards couldn't keep him from getting his points either. He shot 5-10 from the field and 2-5 from distance. During the next game against the Wizards Allen shot 9-16 from the field, and an insane 6-7 from three-point range. Finally, against the Pacers on 1/6/2012, he shot 7-11 from the field and 4-5 from distance. Overall, Allen is shooting 57.5% (46-80) from the floor. That's impressive in its own right, but his 63.5% (26-41) from three-point range is even more impressive. Then again, I guess that's why he's the NBA's greatest three-point shooter of all time.

When thinking about Ray Allen's accomplishments and production I came up with a (probably terrible) example to depict just what Ray Allen can do as he is aging. Think of Ray as that elderly man we all have known at least once during our lives. Despite getting older and slower, the elderly man still moves well and keeps a beautiful lawn and garden. His garden probably looks even better than it did when he was younger. He may not be young anymore, but he has found other ways to continue doing what he loves. It's evident, too, as people constantly compliment the elderly man on how beautiful his lawn and garden look. No one knows how he does it, but everyone respects his body of work and the product he puts out year in and year out.That elderly man is Ray Allen. Ray is slower, older, and not near as agile as he once was in the league. Still, he has found other ways to contribute and make his impact. No longer is he creating his own shots. Rather, he's coming off of screens (numerous screens most times), following up shots, and getting out in transition and hitting big shots. He's been doing all of those things well since he entered the NBA, but as he's aged he's had to utilize those skills much more. Now, even at 36, he's one of the most dangerous players on the league curling off of a screen on the baseline or around the elbow. And still, even at 36, teams just can't keep a body on him for an entire game.

Even though the season is still young, it would be wise to take a deeper look at just how well Ray Allen is shooting. Allen is ranked third in the entire NBA (in players who play 15+ minutes. Sorry, Ronny Turiaf.) in True Shooting Percentage (TS%). Ray's TS% is 77.1, and that's right behind Tyson Chandler at 77.3% and Manu Ginobili at 77.6%. The league average for TS% is 52.4%. Ray also leads the NBA in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) at 73.8% based on players who play 15 or more minutes per game. The league average for eFG% 48.3%. Yea, Ray is shooting pretty well.

Digging in a little deeper to his numbers reveals a whole lot more. Ray is averaging 1.34 points per play. According to Synergy Sports Technology, that's good enough for second in the entire NBA. Ray has been involved in 18 plays resulting in spot-up chances. He's shot the ball 16 times during those plays, and is 8-16 (6-13 from three-point range) from the floor. Allen is averaging 1.33 points per plays resulting in a spot-up attempt. The most often used play involving Allen has him coming off of screens (more times than not he's curling off a screen set for him on the baseline). He has been involved in 47 plays where he is coming off of the screen (that's 45.6% of plays involving Allen). Ray is averaging 1.34 points per play off of those chances -- and that's the best in the NBA. He is shooting 22-38 (57.9%) from the floor in plays where he is curling off of those screens, and 12-17 (70.6%) from beyond the arc. Those are absolutely crazy numbers. The other area where Allen has had a definite impact during this season has been in plays resulting in fast-breaks. In transition opportunities, Ray Allen is shooting 11-13 (84.6%) from the field, and 8-10 (80%) from three. That's an average of 1.7 points per play when Allen is involved in the Celtics' transition opportunities.

Ray has some deficiencies that he will never get rid of -- especially as he ages. His defense isn't what it used to be, but has never been known as an outright defensive monster. Then again, it's kind of hard to keep Dwyane Wade and other elite 2-guards that he is faced up against at bay for an entire game. Deficiencies aside, though, Ray Allen is shooting at a torrid pace. There's no viable explanation for why he is playing and shooting so well other than the fact that Ray Allen has taken pristine care of his body, and has worked extremely hard to put himself in the position that he is in today. He's 36, he's aging, but he can still contribute. He stated recently that he looking for a multi-year contract from Boston at the end of the year. It remains to be seen if Allen will be attainable at a decent price, but one would think that Danny Ainge and the other executive in the front office will be able to find a contract that will please Ray Allen and help the Celtics' cap at the same time. Allen said he wants to play until he is 40. Judging by the way he has taken care of his body thus far, I'd say that's a pretty viable goal.

As Allen's 2011-2012 campaign progresses it will interesting to see if he can keep up this crazy scoring output. Will he be able to continue shooting 57% from the floor for an entire year? That's unlikely. However, one thing we have always learned with Ray Allen is to never give up on him. Every great shooter goes through slumps. Ray may hit a funk at some point this season, but one thing is certain -- he will be ready for the big shot whenever he is called upon. For now, it's probably best to sit back, have some fun, and enjoy the performances Ray continues to put on, because after all, it's not everyday that a 36 year old is shooting like a player in the prime of his career.

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