Walter Ray Allen is in the twilight of his career. He has played 1,022 games, logged almost 38,000 minutes, and has taken over 16,000 shots. Ray just turned 35 on July 20th and will be entering his 15th NBA season. When you look at his last season as a Boston Celtic, Ray averaged 16.3 points per game, his lowest since his rookie season, while putting up his lowest 3-point field goal percentage in over ten years.
Ray Allen is still an NBA superstar.
When defining what makes a basketball player a true “superstar” the “experts” often throw around the word “intangible.” Its dictionary definition is not having a physical presence. In the basketball sense, an intangible is a quality that a player brings on and/or off the floor, like leadership, hustle, opening opportunities for teammates, that can’t be measured through statistics.
At least, it previously wasn’t able to be statistically measured. With the introduction of advanced mathematical analysis on NBA players’ values (AKA the plus/minus system), the intangibles that a player brings to the table are brought to the surface. Are intangible traits legit or bogus? You know what they say: The numbers don’t lie.
And the all-seeing numbers are telling me that when Ray Allen is on the floor, the Boston Celtics are a better basketball team, no matter who is on the floor with him.
According to the plus/minus stats of Basketball Value the 2009-2010 Boston Celtics were 11 points better with Ray Allen on the floor. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with arguing that those numbers could be skewed by the fact that Allen plays for a talented team in the Boston Celtics.
But another number stuck out in my mind, which compares the efficiency of beloved captain Paul Pierce and Sugar Ray. Both Pierce and Allen spent considerable minutes with the same 4-man lineup off the bench; Eddie House, Marquis Daniels, Shelden Williams, and Rasheed Wallace. An unspectacular bunch for the two starters to work with, to say the least. Interestingly enough, this unit was extremely successful with Ray Allen as their fifth, and struggled mightily with Paul Pierce in the same position.
The four bench players plus Ray Allen scored 116 points per 100 possessions, and allowed 101, while Pierce’s lineup did just the opposite, scoring only 101 points, while allowing 116.
Now, I am not saying that Ray Allen is a better player than Paul Pierce (nor am I saying I would be unhappy to see another “Whose Career is Better?” debate). What I am saying is that these figures should not be overlooked. Ray Allen brings that “something extra” to the floor every night, and it’s these intangible qualities that don’t show up on the tradition stat sheet that make Ray Allen remain a great player in the NBA.
So Ray Allen is a superstar, and don’t you forget it.