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Entering his 15th season in the NBA, there isn’t a lot Ray Allen hasn’t experienced. He’s been traded three times, called three different time zones home, and has been a part of two different “Big Threes.”
NBA All Star games? He’s been to nine of them, winning the 3-point contest in 2001. Olympic Gold? Check. What about a title ring? He’s done that too, as the 34-year-old tasted an NBA Championship for the first time in 2008.
But, one thing the sharpshooter has never done is test the waters of free agency. In his previous 14 seasons, Allen has never entered the summer without a contract, having signed mid-season extensions in both Milwaukee and Seattle.
The question now is will Allen do the same in Boston or will he become a free agent for the first time in his career?
Free agency seems like a very real possibility as the regular season approaches and there is still no word of an extension. In almost any other year the future Hall of Famer would be regarded as a prize possession. Unfortunately for him that may not be the case in 2010.
This summer’s free agent class has already been well-publicized. For the last two years teams have been maneuvering players across the league to clear cap space for the likes of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Notwitzki, Amare Stoudemire, and Joe Johnson, just to name a few. The list goes on. This might ultimately lead to Allen suiting up in a different city and a new “Big Three” in Boston.
As of now Danny Ainge has money to work with this summer. The Celtics have four player guaranteed under contract next year: Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins and now Rajon Rondo, after he signed a five-year deal on Monday. Even Paul Pierce could be gone, as he can opt out of his deal in 2010. The team also has options on JR Giddens and Bill Walker.
In all likelihood Pierce won’t opt out of his deal which is worth more than $21 million. At that point even with Rondo, Perk, Davis, Giddens, Walker all 25 or younger, the Celts’ All Stars will be 32 (Pierce), 34 (Garnett), and 35 (Wallace). Why bring back a shooting guard that turns 35 in July?
History backs this up. I went back and looked at the top 20 shooting guards that have made the most 3-point field goals all time. Of the 20 I threw out Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and Peja Stojakovic because they are active players and younger than Allen.
Of the remaining 17 only five player nailed more than 100 3-pointers after the age of 34: Reggie Miller (4), Dale Ellis (3), Glen Rice (1), Brent Barry (1) and Michael Finely who made 131 last season at 35 years old. Only three of the 17 played in the association past 36 (Miller, Ellis, Barry).
And even with Allen draining 199 beyond the arc last year at the age of 33, history also says the decline can be a quick downward spiral. The 14 shooting guards that exited the league at 36 or younger, did so about 2.5 years after their last season with 100 or more 3-point field goals.
Like with any argument though, the numbers don’t tell the entire story. The most obvious objection to the numbers being Sugar Ray is a better player than the other 20 shooting guards. The only fair comparison is Reggie Miller.
Miller posted four seasons of 100+ 3’s after he turned 34 and drilled 96 at the age of 39 in an injury-shortened 66 games. These are the numbers Allen will most likely resemble this year and the coming years — key words being most and likely. There is still a risk.
Will Allen post close to All-Star numbers this year? Sure, especially if you consider he is playing for his last big contract. Will he continue to perform at a relatively high level? Probably. But will it be at the same level as say a Joe Johnson or Dwyane Wade? Would he be as valuable as a Chris Bosh playing alongside KG, Perk and Sheed? There’s just too many questions, with most of the answers being a resounding no.
The summer of 2010 is an opportunity for the C’s to rebuild while not losing a step. A marquee signing allows the organization not to skip a beat in three years when Garnett and Wallace’s contracts expire. Extending Allen could not only cripple the future but the present as well, with history of aging shooting guards.
The early 90s already showed the Celtics what happens to an aging “Big Three” with Larry Bird’s back and Kevin McHale’s leg. Don’t think that the current version of the “Big Three” is anymore immune to father time than the original “Big Three.” With a smorgasbord of talent available in the summer of 2010, Ainge has an opportunity to avoid it and hopefully will.