After the Miami Heat’s successful run to the NBA championship this past season, it was no surprise to see Pat Riley attempt to further reinforce the roster. And he did just that, convincing dead-eye shooters Rashard Lewis and the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-point field goals, Ray Allen to suit up in South Beach this year. Heat fans had every right to be excited, as adding a player of Allen’s calibre to an already loaded lineup would further cement them as a championship-level team. How he will fit into the rotation has been arguably one of the biggest questions of the off-season, considering the aforementioned star power. Here’s how I see it playing out.
As a member of the Big Three in Boston, Ray Allen saw quite a bit of floor time, averaging 35.9(73/82 Games Played), 36.4(79/82 GP), 35.2(80/82 GP), 36.1(80/82 GP) and 34.0(46/66 GP) minutes in his five seasons at the Garden. This won’t be the case in Miami as he will be backing up Dwyane Wade, and the depth of the squad as a whole will help to reduce the need to over-utilize him. Age and injuries will also play a factor, given that he was struggling with an ankle injury for the latter half of 2011-12, including the playoffs. As a result, I see Allen getting around 20 minutes of floor time per game.
But even with the reduced action, I expect this to reap benefits for the Miami Heat. A refreshed Ray Allen means a more efficient Ray Allen – and a more efficient Ray Allen spells trouble for the rest of the league. He hit a career-best 45.3% of his 3’s (at age 36!) last year, signalling that this facet of his game will not diminish.
Also keep in mind the players he’ll be on the floor with. LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and even Mario Chalmers all demand attention from opposing defenders. And with proven commodities like Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller, and James Jones, Ray Allen isn’t the only shooter on the team. Incredibly, thanks to this, Allen may get even more open looks in Miami than he did as a member of the Celtics! Expect him to average in the neighbourhood of 11 PPG, and his 3FG% to either stay the same or increase to around 46.0% given the circumstances.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider is that a proven sharpshooter such as Ray Allen possesses the shot-making ability to lighten the scoring load that James, Wade and Bosh will carry. With another dangerous weapon, they won’t struggle as often as they did against zone defense in past years. Instead, that will keep teams guessing every single time defensively. Given the sheer versatility and talent on the squad, the Heat will have the potential to create an alarming number of scoring opportunities. Allen’s ability to stretch the floor only furthers this point. If all goes to plan, the Miami Big Three will each play fewer minutes per game, allowing them to well-rested for back-to-backs.
All things considered, that has to be a huge plus for the Heat. Having the three best players on the team at or near full strength on a more consistent basis can spike the team’s chances of winning. A player like Ray Allen in a bench role will go a long way to ensuring that, and will pay big dividends throughout the season.
It’s no secret that Ray Allen is on the tail end of his career. Hence, he won’t be playing starters-level minutes for the foreseeable future. But despite that, he has a champion’s mentality, great basketball IQ, and his catch and release from 3-point range is still one of the most feared weapons in the league. It’s a win-win for all involved, and if he stays healthy, Ray Allen will be a very solid investment for the Miami Heat for the next few seasons. He has all the tools to be a perfect fit for the championship puzzle. Now it’s up to Ray Allen himself to deliver the results!