Does Ray Allen Upgrade the Heat?

Ray Allen has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal to play for the Miami Heat. Was this a good move on the part of the Heat? Let's look at the facts.

Ray Allen's great. Unfortunately, so is Wade.

After the signing, Twitter was ablaze at how unstoppable Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are going to be with Ray Allen on the floor. I see a plethora of problems with this "analysis":

  • So, how exactly are we planning on getting all three on the floor for more than 20 minutes a game? Does everybody know that Wade and Allen are both shooting guards? Is Wade playing out of position at small forward? Is Allen?
  • While they are figuring that out, what about LeBron? Sure, he's probably never out of position no matter what you ask him to play because he's a freak of nature, but if he's at PF, is Bosh on the Bench? Or is Bosh now out of position at Center?
  • Is Allen that much better than Battier or Miller? I kind of doubt that defenses are currently leaving those guys open on purpose, any more than they will leave Allen open, unless their defenders are always asleep during scouting de-briefs.

Don't get me wrong, I think Ray Allen is a great player. He's still all-star caliber, in fact. But as I keep pounding on over and over and over in this blog, to improve your team, you have to replace players with better players. You can replace bad players with average ones, or average players with all-stars. Or even terrible players with just-plain-bad players. So if your starting shooting guard is already an all-star, and your starting small forward is a 3-time MVP still in his is another all-star shooting guard an upgrade, exactly? Even if he makes the bench better, that's not a huge improvement.  By definition, the bench doesn't play heavy minutes. If you go from "above average" to "all-star" for 20 minutes of play at one position per night, that's going to net you...what, like 1 extra win over the course of a season? Over the playoffs, it's probably no difference at all, thanks to the fudge factor. If the Heat really want to improve the bench, shouldn't they find an average-level point guard to replace the horrific Norris Cole? That seems wiser than signing an all-star to take minutes from any of the above-average Miller, Battier, or Jones?

Quick aside on Mike Miller: I have no idea why everyone was so quick to kick Mike Miller when he was down. He got hurt last year, and didn't come back strong. They talked about amnestying him at the beginning of the year! What the hell? What baffles me most is all the surprise about Miller's shooting in this year's finals. The man is a career 40% three-point shooter, and he gets hot from downtown, and the meme is "Who could have seen that coming?" Ummm....everybody!? Seriously, that had to happen eventually. End rant.

The worst thing about signing Allen is that it will probably take the Heat out of the running for Marcus Camby. Camby might be getting old, but like Allen, he's still playing at an all-star level. And Unlike the other old stiffs that Miami has tried to roll out in their front court (although, if we're honest, the fact that Juwan Howard was terrible was not a factor of his age), Camby is a fantastic rebounder, shot-blocker, defender, and passer. He doesn't turn the ball over much and he doesn't take a lot of shots (because he isn't good at hitting them). These are all huge upgrades for the Heat over Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem, or even Chris Bosh, who doesn't do as well playing at center. Camby is a perfect fit for the Heat.  Replace an average center with Marcus Camby, and suddenly you're winning 4-5 extra games, and you are dominating in the playoffs. With the added bonus that nobody's playing out of position anymore -- Bosh is back at his natural PF, James goes from all-star power-forward to opponent-soul-crushing MVP small forward, and you don't need to do gymnastics to get your best 3 players on the floor at the same time. No one plays out of position, and you've got all-stars everywhere but the point.

The Heat should have done what the Lakers did; improving from average to all-star (with Nash) is a much bigger upgrade than improving "pretty good" to all-star -- especially when the position you are upgrading is the starter, not the bench.

Perhaps I am just bitter that Allen didn't go to Minnesota. From Luke Ridnour, Wayne Ellington, or Wesley Johnson to Ray Allen. Now that's what I call an upgrade.