While hardly the same player who dominated the league with the SuperSonics for a decade, Ray Allen continues to be a steady starter on a team contending for a playoff spot. But with the Celtics looking at little more than a first-round playoff exit with a 14-12 record, the team must consider breaking up the Big Three in hopes of building for the future. If the team were to entertain trading one of their most prominent players, it would seemingly be Allen's name that would come up the most in trade talks given Kevin Garnett's erratic production and a general unwillingness by the Celtics to deal Paul Pierce.
Both Allen, 36, and Garnett, 35 will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2011/2012 season. But with Garnett currently earning $21MM this season, Allen's $10MM becomes more movable even though both players have expiring contracts. Beyond simply acquiring payroll flexibility at the end of the season, Allen would potentially provide a playoff contender with a strong veteran presence who could provide a boost both on and off the court.
Allen has averaged just over 20 PPG in his illustrious career but that number has dropped to 14.8 PPG this season to go with 2.7 APG, a figure close to what he has averaged during his tenure with the Celtics. Taking the 14.8 PPG at face-value would be doing Allen a disservice as a closer look at his numbers reveals a season of increased efficiency. With a 49.2 FG% and shooting over 50% on threes, Allen is well above his career average marks, making the shortened 2011/2012 season one of his finest in a Celtics uniform.
Health would not be a concern for a team acquiring Allen via trade as he has started at least 73 games in each of the past four seasons. After injuries plagued him during his Seattle days, Allen corrected his diet to better fit the demands of playing an 82-game NBA schedule. Thanks to a healthier diet in combination with an improved exercise regimen created in concert with the Celtics training staff, Allen is on path to start in 98% of the Celtics' games for a third consecutive season.
If put on the trade block, many playoff contenders, including the Bulls, would seemingly consider putting together a package for the former UConn Husky. While Richard Hamilton has played at an acceptable level since signing with the Bulls this offseason, his health concerns remain an issue as he has missed more than half of his team's games. At worst, the addition of Allen would give the Bulls one of the deepest backcourts in the NBA and perhaps push for more out of Hamilton once he returns from injury.
The Bulls could offer two young-ish players to the Celtics in return for Allen. According to ESPN's NBA Trade Machine, a trade of Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer for Allen works on paper and would net the Bulls three additional wins. The trade would provide Brewer the opportunity to start for the Celtics and for Korver to provide depth behind Pierce, but would lead to three additional losses for the Celtics.
While adding Allen to the Bulls may put them in prime position to challenge the Heat for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, time remains for the Celtics to better predict the course of their season. At 14-12, a string of wins could quickly lead to the Celtics being buyers rather than sellers come March. Similarly, a weak finish heading into All-Star Weekend could start the chatter about where Allen may finish the season.