Trading Ray Allen: More Complicated Than the Trade Machine
Posted by Zach Lowe on Feb 2, 2010
Let’s get caught up to speed on all the Ray Allen trade rumors. You’ve got Monday’s breaking news report, via Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski, in which Woj reports the C’s have initiated trade talks involving Allen and his $19 million expiring deal.
Which brings us to this Chris Sheridan item on ESPN.com:
Would [the C's and Bulls] be happy with a trade (and we’re merely speculating here) that sent Allen and a minor player to Chicago for Kirk Hinrich, Tyrus Thomas and Jerome James (a 3-for-2 would work, because Boston has left a roster spot open since Lester Hudson was claimed off waivers by Memphis)? Or for Hinrich and Brad Miller?
Sheridan admits he’s speculating here, so I’m not going to evaluate these trades (which I don’t like) other to say there are major questions about whether Ty Thomas can ever be a consistent player on both ends and that Brad Miller isn’t the plus/minus machine he was last season.
On Monday afternoon, Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen addressed the possibility of the C’s trading Allen on WEEI:
Could they trade Ray Allen?
I really don’t think so. Then you’re really having to start over. But maybe they could. Danny Ainge is the one guy who could really do that. He’s the one guy that would take that gamble if he really thinks that’s what needs to be done. And they could trade Ray Allen, because right now in the league, an expiring contract like Ray Allen’s is a big asset.
Thomsen seems a little schizophrenic here, and I think that’s appropriate.
Trading Ray Allen is no small proposition. It’s easy for people to go on the trade machine and construct Allen-centered deals for Monta Ellis, Amare Stoudemire, Andre Iguodala or (get crazy!) Hinrich and John Salmons.
It’s a lot harder to remove Ray Allen from the team. You’re talking about erasing a huge chunk of the playbook and replacing it with…something unknown. A large portion of the C’s offensive sets involve Ray Allen running through screens along the baseline and curling up along the wing or near the elbow. Ray isn’t always option #1 or even option #2 in those sets, but his presence creates options #3, #4 and #5, some of which are built-in parts of the C’s offense and some of which present themselves spontaneously as the defense moves around.
Think about how many times you’ve seen this sequence: Ray cuts from the right corner around two baseline screens, the second of which Perk sets on the left edge of the paint. Ray curls out to the elbow, receives a pass and faces the basket. He has a decent shot, only the big guy defending Perk has jumped out to try and deter that shot, leaving Perk open for a brief window. Allen rifles a quick pass to Perk who either lays the ball in right away or waits for the rotating defender to fly by him before going up for a dunk/lay-in.
That is a mainstay of the C’s offense—and Perk’s offense—and it exists simply because Ray Allen can shoot the ball and thus demands attention wherever he goes. Can you run that action with Iguodala, a career 32 percent three-point shooter with a tendency to shoot too many threes? Or with Monta Ellis, who is used to playing with the ball in his hands?
I submit that you can’t, at least not with the same proficiency. Delete it from the playbook.
And what about Doc’s favorite end-of-game play, the one where Allen sets a screen for Pierce, fades behind the three-point line (and a back screen from a C’s big) and receives a cross-court pass from Pierce for an open three? Can you run that as well with anyone else?
Probably not. Delete it from the playbook—or at least push it to the appendix.
I understand that these are professionals, and that coaches and players should be able to create some new stuff on offense in fairly short order. But is that something you want to be doing with 25 games left before the playoffs? And do you want to do it to a starting line-up that has played the better part of three straight seasons together?
These are tough, tough questions, and they’re just some of the questions that come up when you talk about trading Ray Allen.
That said, this is one of those things that is tough to comment on from outside the team. The team would only trade Ray Allen now if it had come to one conclusion: That it is not good enough to win the title this season. And to get to that conclusion, you need intimate knowledge of KG’s health, of how Ray’s body is feeling and whether wear and age are behind his slump, of whether Rasheed Wallace will be able to offer more in April than he can in February.
I don’t know the answers to those questions. Only team officials are in a position to reach a truly educated conclusion about them. But if those conclusions lean to the negative, they absolutely have a responsibility to field offers and initiate talks. Not long ago, another Boston team traded a beloved but declining player well before the fan base was emotionally prepared to trade that player. After the initial uproar, that team won its first championship in 86 years.
Ray Allen isn’t Nomar, the Celtics aren’t the Red Sox and the economics of the NBA are completely different from those of MLB.
But if the decision-makers believe the Celtics, as presently constructed, can’t win the title, it would be irresponsible not to look at shaking up the team. I mean, what’s the point of having an $85 million payroll centered on two veterans with shaky knees if you’re just going to stand pat with a team you don’t think is good enough to hoist Banner #18?
I don’t know whether the Celtics are good enough to win the title. The recent streak, and the team’s 1-6 record against Orlando and Atlanta, have shaken me. That said, we haven’t seen this team play at full strength for more than a few games this season.
There’s no clear answer to any of these questions.
My prediction: Ray stays and the team lets his deal expire. But I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on it.