Despite the Grizzlies place in the thick of their Western Conference Finals series against the Spurs, their perimeter defensive specialist, Tony Allen, will be an unrestricted free agent this July.
Allen spoke with Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.com yesterday about the blue collar "Grit and Grind" Grizzlies, their blue collar Memphis fans, and--towards the end of the piece--his impending free agency. Said Allen:
"I don't even understand the business side. When July hits, somebody is going to have to sit me down and explain it. All I know is I'm a Grizzly and I believe I'm going to be a Grizzly when it's over with.
"I bleed blue. I think they going to keep me. But if they don't, I understand.
"I don't even think about it now. I just play. I love being in Memphis. I love the city. Hopefully I stay here. It feels like home."
Speaking of Allen's Grizzlies, here are some more notes from around the Western Conference:
A few notes from around the NBA's Western Conference.
Mixed among his notes on the Cavaliers and other NBA topics, Bob Finnan of The News-Herald writes that it appears Cleveland has interest in signing Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen as an unrestricted free agent this summer. As Finnan notes, Allen would likely shore up Cleveland's defense, which allowed 106.9 points per 100 possessions, tied for fourth worst in the league. Owner Dan Gilbert alluded to new coach Mike Brown's "much-needed defensive-first philosophy" when Brown was hired last month.
Allen, named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team last season, is the main perimeter stopper for the Grizzles, who allowed the second fewest points per 100 possessions in the league this year. He has expressed a desire to remain with Memphis, and earlier this season, he brought up a conversation he had with Zach Randolph about staying with the Grizzlies until they both retire. Still, Allen isn't unwilling to test free agency, telling Shaun Powell of Sports on Earth in February that, "I'd like to stay but whatever happens I'm cool with it."
Allen struggles with his shot, as Finnan points out, and this year he made just 12.5% of his three-point attempts. Despite 44.5% shooting from the field overall this season, he's made 47.5% of his career field goal attempts, displaying an ability to maximize his offensive strengths. Allen is making $3.3MM this season, but an unnamed Eastern Conference general manager told Chris Mannix of SI.com in March that he believes the 31-year-old is in for a slight raise, with a three-year contract at $4MM annually.
The Grizzlies created financial flexibility with a pair of trades this season, but accommodating that sort of contract for Allen this summer would once more make it difficult for the team to maneuver, as our Luke Adams detailed last month. Adams believes Allen will come back to Memphis, perhaps at a slight discount, but the Cavs, with ample cap space this summer, could make that decision difficult with an above-market offer. I wouldn't be surprised to see Cleveland GM Chris Grant try to overpay for a player who fits the team's renewed commitment to defense.
In his NBA AM piece for HoopsWorld on Monday, Steve Kyler explored the upcoming free agencies for a number of point guards on playoff teams. Today, Kyler turns his attention to the shooting guards in the postseason who could be hitting the free agent market this summer. Let's round up the notable tidbits from his piece....
The Grizzlies haven't missed a beat following their trade of Rudy Gay, going 24-9 since adding Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, and Austin Daye to the active roster in Gay's place. Zach Randolph and other Grizzlies have even come around on management's stance that Memphis may be a better team without Gay, as Randolph told Sam Amick of USA Today last month.
However, while the Grizzlies have survived the loss of Gay, there's another player on the perimeter in Memphis who is even more essential to the team's success: Tony Allen. One of the league's best defenders, Allen is a key piece on a Grizzlies club that hopes to make a deep run in the 2013 playoffs. But after Memphis' season ends, either with a postseason defeat or a title, Allen will become an unrestricted free agent, giving him the opportunity to sign anywhere.
As Chris Mannix of SI.com wrote in March, Allen has been a perfect fit in Memphis, where the defense-first Grizzlies get a good chunk of their scoring from big men Randolph and Marc Gasol, meaning they don't need much offense from Allen. Like Andre Iguodala in Denver, Allen has a role in Memphis that plays to his strengths, something that wouldn't necessarily happen if he were to sign with another team. Still, at least one Eastern Conference executive told Mannix that he thinks the 6'4" guard would be a good fit just about anywhere.
"I like him a lot," the exec said. "He adds instant toughness and a defensive mentality to your team. He's a leader on the floor and he isn't going to back down from anyone. I think everyone in the league would love to have him."
Not only would every team in the NBA likely have some interest in a player like Allen, who has the ability to shut down the league's premier perimeter players, but his price tag may be affordable enough that just about every club could have a real shot. The Oklahoma State product is playing in the final year of a three-year contract that paid him just over $3.1MM annually, and one Eastern Conference general manager predicted to Mannix that Allen could sign a similar deal this time, perhaps with a slight raise -- "three years at $4MM per year sounds right," said the GM.
At age 31, Allen seems to be hitting the market at an ideal time. His last three seasons in Memphis have been the best three-year stretch of his career, as he's seen his playing time steadly increase (from 18.4 career MPG prior to joining the Grizzlies to 27.1 MPG this season). His defensive prowess has also become more widely recognized, culminating with a spot on the NBA's All-Defensive First Team in 2012. Based on his production and his reputation, I could see the bidding going even higher than $4MM per year on Allen. He seems to me like the kind of player to whom a contending team would be willing to commit its full mid-level exception.
While that sort of salary would still put him within most teams' price range, it may make it tricky for the Grizzlies to bring him back. Even after clearing Gay's and Marreese Speights' projected salaries for 2013/14 from their books, the Grizz have over $60MM committed to next year's roster. The team could still re-sign Allen for a fair market price and avoid going into tax territory, but barring any further cost-cutting roster moves, it wouldn't leave much wiggle room for other upgrades.
Still, based on Allen's comments and his attitude since arriving in Memphis in 2010, I get the impression that the veteran would be reluctant to leave, particularly if the difference in money elsewhere wasn't significant. As such, I expect Allen and the Grizzlies to work something out this July, perhaps for a slightly lesser salary than the 31-year-old would receive from a rival suitor. A multiyear deal would provide some long-term security for Allen, while the Grizzlies would avoid having to try to replace Allen's production as effectively as they replaced Gay's.
A few notes from around the league's Western Conference.
The race for the final playoff spot(s) in the Western Conference will continue tonight, when the Lakers play the Bucks in Milwaukee and the Mavericks host the Pacers in Dallas. As we look forward to those games, let's round up a few Thursday items out of the conference....
The latest news and notes from around the Southwest Division on Saturday evening:
It's a light five-game schedule in the NBA tonight, with no clashes of two teams that appear to be headed for the playoffs. So, it may be time for a few executives around the league to take their eyes off the court and delve into trade talks, with the deadline just a dozen days away. We'll be keeping tabs on all the latest, with a few afternoon items right here:
The Jazz were on the wrong end of one of the Lakers' better performances of the season last night, and now they have to turn around tonight and take on the Pacers, who are just one of two teams in the league giving up fewer than 90 points a game (the Grizzlies are the other). Utah, sitting seventh in the West, is only a game and a half in front of the ninth-place Rockets, and with only five players with guaranteed money on the books for next season, the Jazz will be an interesting team to watch as the trade deadline draws near.
As we await a 10-game night in the NBA, here's more from around the Association: