In other words: When it comes to Ray Allen, never say never. The trade rumors have resurfaced and while it's difficult to imagine one of the Celtics' Big Three being cast away, there are a few reasons why dealing Allen before the trade deadline this winter makes good business sense.
1. Allen is on the decline. When he was a key cog on the Celtics' championship squad two summers ago, he contributed mainly by creating open jump shots when Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett drew the focus of opposing defenses. For some reason, that's not working anymore. Allen's lost his touch — the 3s aren't falling and he's beginning to realize that he'll have to work harder for his points. He's trying to drive to the basket more, becoming more of a scorer than just a spot-up shooter.
He's out of his element and it shows. His 3-point shooting percentage (30.1) has hit rock bottom for his whole career, and his scoring average (15.2) hasn't been this low since his rookie year.
This might mean that he's expendable. Eddie House has emerged as the C's more reliable 3-point assassin over the past two seasons and he's younger, cheaper and, at the moment, has the hotter hand.
2. The Celtics need to get younger. If that sounds like it's been beaten to death, it's because it's true. With all the mileage on the odometers of Allen, Pierce, Garnett and Rasheed Wallace, the injury bug could attack at any time. The knees can only take so much wear and tear. It's sad, but true.
If the Celtics ship Allen away before the deadline, they can bring in a younger but equally battle-tested, playoff-ready replacement. That would benefit them not only this season but down the road as well.
3. Allen has an expiring contract. In reality, this is the most important reason of all. Salary-cap space is always an issue in the NBA, and expiring deals are always a commodity — but that's even more true this season. Everyone has his eyes on the 2010 free-agent class, and everyone wants a shot at LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. In order to have a shot at them, though, everyone has to stock up on expiring deals to free up space for next summer.
Allen has one of the biggest expiring deals of all. He's due almost $19 million this season. By acquiring that contract, any team interested in making a serious run at LeBron and his ilk can free up a ton of room for the future, and by shipping that contract away, the Celtics can haul in a load of talent — $19 million worth.
To make it work, the Celtics need to bring in at least one team with eyes on both the present and future. They need a suitor that's both interested in winning right now — which Allen's veteran presence can certainly help with — and is also interested in spending freely in the future, which Allen's contract can enable down the road. Think Cleveland (which will be dying to keep LeBron), Miami (in the same boat with Wade), and Houston (ditto with Tracy McGrady, and possibly Yao Ming if he opts out). All of these teams want to win now, but they also wouldn't mind freeing up some cap space to spend next summer.
All of these are reasons why a trade of Ray Allen makes sense for the Celtics in the near future.
Now here's one counterargument: He's Ray Allen.
No matter how you slice it, trading him is a difficult proposition for the Celtics front office, for the fans and even for his teammates to handle. Even if logic dictates that a move makes sense, it will be painful to pull the trigger on anything.
Unless an offer appears that really blows the Celtics away, expect them to get gun-shy.
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