As free agency starts to temper down in the NBA, there are still some intriguing names available. One of those of which is the NBA’s all-time leader in three-point field goals, Ray Allen. Drafted in the heralded class of 1996, Allen has endured longer than most as a productive player in the league. With 18 seasons, 10 All Star appearances, two championships, and a list of other accolades under his belt it’s quite understandable if Allen were to call it a day. Yet, here we are. With nothing left to prove, Ray Allen has spent this off-season pondering a return to the court for a 19th season, or ending a career that most can only aspire to have in the NBA.
While it seems that retirement is the obvious choice, it’s not so clear-cut in this situation. Since LeBron James announced that he was returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was only a matter of time before former players from the Miami Heat followed his lead. James is the best player in the world, and players want to play with him.The chances of winning a ring are dramatically increased when he’s on your team, and for veterans hoping to hoist that Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of every season it’s a route worth pursuing. As someone who has played against and more recently with James, the sharp shooting Allen is well aware of this. It’s been speculated throughout this off-season that his decision to continue playing ultimately hinged on James decision.
At 38 years old his best days are surely behind him, but as one of the more conditioned veterans in the league Allen is an asset to any team that acquires him. His work ethic and training habits have allowed him to compete even this late in his career, and Cleveland would certainly benefit. On a team that lacks a solid core of productive leaders, having Allen on that bench increases their ability to operate. While he may be seen as a liability on defense, the abundantly athletic and youthful players on the Cavs can hide him in that area. At this stage of his career he is mostly a three-point specialist, and easily one of the best to ever do it. With Cleveland already acquiring the services of Mike Miller, another former running mate from the Heat, adding Allen would allow them to space the floor much more efficiently. LeBron understands that this Cavs team as it stands is filled with potential, but bringing in solid veterans that he trusts will enhance their strengths.
On the other side of the token, there is still the question of the Miami Heat wanting Allen to return. Even with the loss of LeBron, Pat Riley has managed to create a roster that looks like it’ll still be pretty competitive in a weak Eastern Conference. Ironically Miami is a team composed of veteran players for the most part, but Allen’s role would essentially be the same there as well. His shooting is so prolific that they’ll rely heavily on him, and with questions surrounding the health of Dwyane Wade and possibly even Danny Granger who was recently signed, Allen might find himself over-exerting himself in this situation. The difference is he won’t have the best player in the world to look to when the team needs someone to carry the load. Chris Bosh stands to have a major impact as the main guy on the team, but there will be plenty of nights when that’s just not enough. Certainly not enough to keep one as accomplished as Allen from retiring.
In the end the best option for Ray Allen would be to retire. While he is very much still a valuable and productive player, any projections on what he’ll do for a team at this point are presumptuous. Another year of 82 games are under his belt, and time is the one element that eventually limits all competitors. It’s possible that instead of playing at a steady rate, that Allen regresses to a point where he is a non-factor. A move to Cleveland would put him in a new system that might exploit his weaknesses, and taking another chance with Miami will surely have him stretched beyond his abilities. He’s won two rings, and there is no need for him to chase more given all of his individual accolades. It would be best for him to announce his retirement, and start the countdown to when he’ll be honored in the Hall of Fame. It’s been a career well done, and ultimately retirement is something that we’ll all understand and appreciate should he choose that option.