Top 50: Ray Allen, no. 36
The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.
by Jonathan Evans
Ray Allen is a grown ass man. The 13-year vet has been around the block a few times. In that time, he’s made more threes than anyone in the history of the NBA not names Reggie Miller, gone to nine all-star games and set the record for threes made in the Finals with 22. By now, everyone knows the game. What everyone may not know is the makeup of the man behind the sweetest stroke in the league. More than the jumper, it is that makeup that will make him a force to be reckoned with going into the ’09-10 season.
Back when Three the Hard Way tore through the league on the way to the 2008 title, it was Ray that sacrificed the most. He went from the top dog for a decade to essentially a spot up shooting third option. In the name of ubuntu, Ray fit perfectly in this reduced role by spacing the floor, draining jumpers and opening things up for the slashing Pierce and Rondo.
But don’t mistake stepping aside with falling off. When KG went down, Allen helped carry the flag to keep the Celtics among the east’s elite. Sugar Ray dropped 18 a game shooting 48% from the field and 40% from three. How about this, based on +/- statistics, Ray Allen was the most productive player last season. Look at the net on court/off court differential, no other Celtic touches him.
Then came the rollercoaster ride of the playoffs. In the first game against Chicago, Ray shot a putrid 1 for 12 from the field in the two-point loss. After missing a shot that would have forced a second overtime, it looked as if there was a giant fork was piercing through the number 20 on the back of his jersey.
But there was no time to dwell in defeat and prepare for the sunset of his career. His team needed him and so he responded. In the next game, his 28 second half points including a go ahead three with 2.0 seconds left to pull his Celtics back into the series. Games later, his 51-point outburst affirmed that the artist formerly known as Jesus Shuttlesworth still has game.
But for all of the clutch shots he hit against the Bulls, there were also the head scratching no-shows against the Magic. The seemingly all or nothing performances from Ray likely reflected the fact that his then thirty three year old legs had gotten the best of him. After such an inconsistent series, the million dollar question is, entering his 14th season, can Ray bring it every night?
To answer that question, we need to return to the makeup of Walter Ray Allen. It goes without saying that Ray Allen is a talented basketball player. But more importantly, Ray Allen is probably one of the most persistent players in the league. As he said in The Improper Bostonian earlier this year, “A long time ago, somebody told me that they thought God had blessed me with a jump shot, and the ability to be a great NBA player. That surprised me. I was like, ‘Do you really believe that?’ God blessed me with health, a healthy family and the ability to go out and find for myself what I wanted to do. He granted me with the competitive drive to want to be the best and the sound mind to accomplish my goals. But that came through focus and dedication, not from some Godgiven right.”
At this critical point in his career, it will be these signature traits of Ray Allen that will be needed just as much as the silky smooth jumper. Talent only goes so far and it is the makeup of the man that takes one to the next level. His legendary work ethic combined with his borderline case of obsessive compulsive disorder lets us know that Allen is fully geared towards erasing the disappointment of the Orlando series. Entering this season, he is rested, healthy and is putting in the work to affirm his place among the league’s elite two guards.
Ray Allen is a grown ass man. How many other NBA swingmen do you think follow Bill Cosby and Danny Glover on twitter? In the last year of his contract, he knows what’s at stake and the criticality of the moment. This is arguably his last, best chance at another ring. The onus falls on him to carry much of that burden and help lead the veteran-laden Celtics back to the top. Now, fully healthy and with Marquis Daniels in the fold, Ray should be able to have enough in the tank for a deep playoff run. After coming up short in the conference semifinals, look for Ray to do what he always has done. Respond. Boasting that beautifully deadly jumper, Sugar Ray will do all he can to make sure next season ends with duckboats in June instead of in disappointment in May.
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’09-10 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Brett Ballantini, Russ Bengtson, Toney Blare, Shannon Booher, Myles Brown, Franklyn Calle, Gregory Dole, Emry DowningHall, Jonathan Evans, Adam Fleischer, Jeff Fox, Sherman Johnson, Aaron Kaplowitz, John Krolik, Holly MacKenzie, Ryne Nelson, Chris O’Leary, Ben Osborne, Alan Paul, Susan Price, Sam Rubenstein, Khalid Salaam, Kye Stephenson, Adam Sweeney, Vincent Thomas, Tzvi Twersky, Justin Walsh, Joey Whelan, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.