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Portland Trail Blazers Shooting Guard Needs: Ray Allen, Anyone?

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Shooting guards dominate the discussion in today's edition of the Blazer's Edge Mailbag.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get to some guard-related Mailbag questions!

Dave,

I just noticed that a one Mr. Ray Allen hasn't yet signed to a team for this season. Setting aside considerations of salary or roster space, would he be useful and a good fit for this team?

Aaron

I can see the attraction. Ray Allen was 38 years old last year and his shooting was well below his career average but that "well below" still amounted to 37.5% from beyond the arc. Think about that. 37.5% three-point shooting is bad Ray Allen. One can only imagine what the 39-year-old version would do with the kind of open shots the Blazers generate. Plus Allen has played in 171 post-season games and carries World Titles under his belt. On the surface he'd fit with this club well, either as a rotation player or as an emergency option as games get more important and veteran experience tells. Few would express disappointment if the Blazers picked up Allen for a veteran minimum contract.

That said, the potential pool of disappointed folks contains at least 4 members: C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Will Barton, and Allen himself.

Allen has made $184 million during his career. He's not coming back for the money. If he signs he'll be looking for a championship ring and the best chance to contribute. If he's going to sacrifice one of those two, he'll need to be assured of the other.

The Blazers can offer him some hope of contending. They're not the front-runners by any means. If Allen wanted to coattail his way to another title while playing sparingly he could pick 5-6 more likely candidates.

Offering significant playing time would swing the pendulum towards Portland. But would the Blazers be willing to do that? Here's where the other three potential "disappointees" factor in.

Even at 38, Allen played nearly 2000 minutes last season, averaging 26.5 minutes per game played. Those aren't starter numbers but they're not 11th Man material either.

McCollum has played in 11 games this season, averaging 13 minutes. Crabbe has appeared in 12 games at 16 minutes per, Barton in 12 at 10 minutes. Granting Allen last year's minutes would cut 2 of those players out of the picture and cap the playing time of the third. A more modest 20 minutes per game for Allen would take half the cumulative playing time away from the young guards.

As we've seen with Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard, and Joel Freeland, the bottom of the Blazers rotation is fluid. The same story holds with the guards. The franchise isn't married to any of its young players. But the Blazers seem committed to giving the kids a chance...to seeing what's in the cupboard already before hitting the supermarket. They've shown few signs of valuing depth for depth's sake. They're still weighing what the roster could be like 2-3 years from now instead of obsessing over what it looks like today.

Two things could change that outlook. If all the young guys lay an egg or get injured and the Blazers don't feel they can depend on them, they can't leave the position open. If the current roster shows that they're so far ahead of the curve that a championship this year is a real possibility, the front office will need to consider backups to the backups in case something happens during the post-season (injury, bad matchups, slumps). In either of those cases, chasing Ray Allen could make sense.

I'd worry about the usual things signing Allen--defense, chemistry, future potential versus now--but I can think of worse moves. For every bad scenario I can envision I also see him saving a game or two in the playoffs. In April and May, 1-2 games are worth a few million in extra contracts. If the Blazers remain at or near the very top of the league, watch for this option or one like it. Short of that, though, look for them to continue their commitment to youth development, asking their current players to give them most of Allen's current three-point ability along with faster movement and better "D".

Hi Dave:

What´s the deal with most offenses not making our defense pay for going smaller in the perimeter? I´ve seen lots of Blake and Damian together, or Blake & CJ, and even Crabbe on Chandler & Gallinari in our last game against Denver. Is it sustainable long term?

Thanks for all the great work.

Love,

Alfredo.

Aka amlmart1

Welcome to the modern NBA, right?

Anyone over the age of 40 watches these lineups and thinks, "Man, Clyde Drexler would make hash out of that defense." Anyone over the age of 20 says, "Brandon Roy would shoot right over them!" Drexler and Roy are gone now. Hand checking rules have allowed shorter, quicker guards to do everything that large shooting guards used to do except post up. That's still an underutilized skill among off-guards...one of the few effective tools against smaller defenders. But even if your guard cultivates it in anticipation of facing smaller opponents, how many NBA 2-guards really scare you scoring down low? So they score 18. Is that going to lead their team to victory, especially when it means they're not shooting threes, the offense is slowing down, and the ball isn't moving? Some shooting guards would scare you with that kind of offense, but you can count them on one hand...and that's after the bandsaw accident.

For all these reasons, "other point guard" has become an acceptable substitute for shooting guard on most rosters. 6'3", fast, and capable of hitting a jumper is the new 6'7". Out of 82 games the Blazers might pay for their shortcomings in 8-10 and they won't lose all of those. That makes this a low-priority issue.

The only way this changes is if Portland happens to get into a playoff matchup with one of those nasty teams sporting bigger scoring 2-guards. This was one of the reasons the Houston Rockets were such a challenging matchup for Portland last year. Blazer fans will say, "But...The Shot!" True enough. But...

1. The Rockets--and particularly their large-sized, big-scoring shooting guard--played like their brains had been replaced by rancid porridge. If that's correctable, they could make the Blazers sweat plenty. And...

2. Rockets fans can retort, "Yeah, The Shot. Wanna try making that happen again?" They'd have a point too. That last-second three was likely the difference between Portland winning in 6 and losing in 7 even with the Rockets playing dumb-ball. The margin isn't that comfortable.

An unfortunate and sustained playoff pairing would be the only scenario in which the short-guard worry persists. And even then the Blazers can disguise their lineups against the opposing bench, which is unlikely to contain a second tall, big-time scorer. Even in the worst-case scenario the issue doesn't have to be fatal, as last year's first-round victory attests.

Running 2 small guards for stretches of the game could become a concern. It isn't yet, though, and the chances of it becoming a season-killer seem small. The Blazers will have to settle for not being vulnerable 90% of the time and depend on Wesley Matthews to pull extra duty covering the remaining 10%. It'll probably work out fine.

You can send Mailbag questions to blazersub@gmail.com OR you can now phone in your questions to our weekly podcast with Phil Naessens at 234-738-3394. The next version of that should go up this afternoon.

Since it's the season of giving, don't forget to help underprivileged youth, children, and chaperons see Portland's March 30th game against the Phoenix Suns by contributing tickets to Blazer's Edge Night. The cost of a ticket is low and the joy it brings into the life of a child who otherwise wouldn't get to see a game is immeasurable. We're looking to send over 1000 kids this year. You can find all the details here. Please help with a ticket or two (or 10!) if you can.

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard@Blazersedge