11:12 am Jul. 9, 2012
The Miami Heat and Ray Allen, longtime tormentor of the New York Knicks with the Boston Celtics, agreed to a contract this weekend, with significant ramifications for the Eastern Conference.
In Allen, the Heat added one of the best three-point shooters in N.B.A. history. Allen is a career 40 percent shooter from long range, and he has seemingly gotten better with age. This past season, Allen shot better than 45 percent from three, after topping 44 percent the season before. The two years represent Allen's two best percentages in any of his seasons.
The shooting of Allen would help any team. But the Miami Heat, in particular, stand to benefit from having Allen to pick apart defenses.
Last season, Miami had only one shooter on par with Allen: Mike Miller. But Miller was fragile, his body breaking down after 12 N.B.A. seasons, and he managed to play in just 39 regular season games.
With Miller, the Heat were 29-10. Without him, they were 17-10. Essentially, the difference between the Heat as a good team and a great team was Miller. With a healthy-enough Miller playing in the playoffs, the Heat won the championship. Miller had seven threes in the clinching Game 5 of the N.B.A. Finals.
But Miller may not even play next season, with back surgery just one of the physical obstacles he's facing. So the Heat needed someone else to pair James Jones to give the Heat sufficient perimeter shooting to keep defenses from focusing too completely on LeBron James, and to a lesser extent, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Allen certainly provides that shooting. It isn't unreasonable to expect Allen to shoot an even higher percentage with the Heat, where he will be a deterrent, than he did with the Celtics, where stopping him was as important defensively as limiting the damage inflicted by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
As for those Celtics, they'll need to try and compete next year without the shooting of Allen. The plan clearly appears to be to try and soldier on with the core players who have been so successful for Boston in recent years--Garnett, for instance, was just re-signed for three years--but losing Allen complicates any such idea.
But the real issue for the Celtics, Knicks and Nets is that the Miami Heat, who just won an N.B.A. championship, are likely to be even better next season. Who's going to catch them?