MikeCheck: Grizzlies Offseason Outlook – Tony Allen
By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media
MEMPHIS – What’s next for the Memphis Grizzlies?
Who stays? Who goes?
How will the Grit’N’Grind era continue to evolve?
Those questions and more face the Grizzlies as they embark on an offseason destined for change after their seventh consecutive playoff trip ended in a six-game series loss to the Spurs in the opening round. There’s plenty of optimism moving forward. There’s also clearly something most fans, players, coaches and executives agree on: 43 wins, a No. 7 seed in the playoffs and a first-round exit aren’t good enough.
Over a stretch of 17 weekdays, we’ll dive into our ‘Offseason Outlook’ series that breaks down my personal analysis as to where each player on the Grizzlies’ roster stands, in addition to coach David Fizdale and general manager Chris Wallace, entering a potentially pivotal offseason.
Player: Tony Allen, 35
Measurables: 6-4, 213 – 13th NBA Season
2016-17 Stats: 9.1ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.6 spg (team high); 27.0 mpg (career high)
Status: Unrestricted Free Agent – $5.0 million salary in 2016-17
It’s not often players produce career-high numbers at age 35, but Allen registered a third consecutive season with at least 110 steals for the longest such streak of his career. His 27 minutes per game and five double-doubles were also personal high water marks this past season.
I can’t see myself being nowhere else – this is where my heart is at. This is where I pretty much laid the foundation down with the grit and grind thing. I want to continue. There might be some changes made. What are the changes? I don’t know. I don’t want to be one of them. I’m not trying to break the bank or nothing … we’ll come to an agreement when those talks come.
When healthy, there were several games Allen flat-out won after he reentered midway through the fourth quarter and altered the defensive energy in the arena. Most advanced metrics continue to rate him as an All-NBA defender at his position. Quietly, his scoring average this season was the second-highest mark of his Grizzlies’ tenure. There were times coach David Fizdale trusted Allen more than anyone to spell Mike Conley at point guard. Doses of Allen as a spot-duty facilitator are fine. A steady diet of it, as was the case at times this season, isn’t ideal for anyone’s sanity. He’s still a game-changer whose value was revealed as much in his postseason absence as it was in the 71 games he played.
With the NBA rapidly trending younger, more athletic and versatile at the interchangeable shooting guard, small forward and power forward positions, it’s far from prudent for Memphis to continue to double down on players in their mid-to-late 30s and 40s (Allen and Vince Carter). Those guys tend to break down. For all he did well this season, Allen still opened the season sidelined with a nagging knee injury and closed it out of commission with a strained calf. The Grizzlies spent much of the season, and especially the stretch run, grooming rookies Wayne Selden and Andrew Harrison and inexpensive vet James Ennis to take this role. All showed flashes, but none consistently filled the ‘First-Team T.A.’ void.
Allen is an acquired taste and can be difficult to manage. But after some initial growing pains, Fizdale and Allen found a common ground and a line of communication. Allen proved he’s willing to come off the bench, and that should probably be his ideal role moving forward. Let’s face it, it’s difficult to see both Allen and Carter returning unless they take pay cuts. But Allen has three things going for him. A) Even at the salary he earned last season, Allen is an absolute bargain in today’s NBA for what he brings. B) He seems willing work at a hometown discount. And C), there isn’t a clear option to replace him who would command the respect of the refs and take on an opponent’s elite wing player.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.