Multiple sources are indicating that Ray Allen, the NBA’s all-time leader in made three-point field goals, has reached a contract agreement with the Miami Heat. Allen, of course, is an unrestricted free agent of the Boston Celtics, the team that took the eventual 2012 NBA champions to a surprising seventh and deciding game in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics reportedly offered a longer and more lucrative contract to the 36 year-old than the Heat, but Allen ultimately chose the team that he feels has a better chance to win a championship in the coming season.
The acquisition of Allen is a huge boon to a Miami offense that heavily relies on space and three-point shooting so defenses can’t pay so much attention to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Each is a very gifted and willing passer to waiting shooters out of double-teams and overloaded sides of the floor, never exemplified better than James’ performance in game 5 of the NBA Finals. The Heat connected on 14 three-pointers in the series-deciding win, and James assisted on the majority of them, using his devastating post-game to draw extra Oklahoma City defenders before kicking the ball out to Mike Miller, Shane Battier, or Mario Chalmers. With Allen in the fold – still the game’s pre-eminent space creator given his uncanny off-ball movement and ability to use screens – Miami’s offense should be better than ever in the coming season.
Allen’s departure is the literal end of the Big Three-era in Boston, leaving Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as the mainstays from that fateful 2007 off-season that’s led to so much sustained success, if only one NBA Championship. On the floor, though, he won’t be missed as much as one would think. Avery Bradley overtook Allen as a starter in 2012 and is poised for major minutes again this season, and the Celtics recently agreed to terms with free agent Jason Terry on a three year contract. Terry isn’t on Allen’s level as a shooter but remains a major threat from deep, and even at this advanced stage of his career is still a threat off the dribble. If he can mesh quickly with Garnett, Pierce, and Rajon Rondo, it’s easy to imagine Terry picking up any slack in the Boston offense left by Allen.
Maybe the most interesting aspect of this deal, though, is what it means in terms of the Boston-Miami rivalry. Garnett and Pierce have long butted heads with James, and multiple times since Miami came together in 2010 have pushes and shoves been exchanged in-game. After such a dramatic Eastern Conference Finals, tensions between these two powers were likely to be higher than ever, and Allen’s departure to Miami considerably stokes the fire. Yet another fascinating wrinkle to what’s developed into the league’s most competitive and emotional rivalry.