Following the Miami Heat's 2012 Finals win over the Oklahoma City Thunder -- a series in which the Heat shot 43 percent from three-point territory by placing Shane Battier and Mike Miller outside the arc to snipe -- Pat Riley pushed his chips to the middle of the table and went all-in on the Heat's position-less (i.e. small ball) scheme.
Miami convinced Ray Allen to spurn Boston and come to South Beach for about half as much money as the Celtics were offering, signing the 36-year-old shooting guard to a one-year, $3 million contract that includes a player option for the 2013-14 season. Since Miami couldn't offer Allen as much money as other teams, Riley and Erik Spoelstra dangled a carrot that no other organization could: the opportunity to play alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Essentially, the opportunity to take wide open threes on a nightly basis and make a run at another championship, a mountain Allen has climbed just once before, with Boston in 2007-08.
Allen, coming off the bench for the first time in his illustrious 16-year career, has been everything Miami could've hoped for. His minutes, by design, are down. Ditto for shot attempts, although Allen is hoisting 11.3 shots per 36 minutes, the exact same pace at which he launched in 2011-12. From an efficiency standpoint, the former UCONN Husky is posting career highs in true shooting percentage (63.1%) and effective FG percentage (58.6%) while posting his highest rebound rate (8%) in the past decade.
Allen brings more than just statistics to the table; he has a reputation around the league as a cold-blooded marksman. The respect he's earned from opposing defenses reduces the amount of attention James and Wade get on their forays into the lane. It's no coincidence that both LeBron and Wade are finishing at the rim with greater success this year than in years past. Defenses are reticent to collapse and leave Allen unsupervised.
While the addition of Allen has been a seamless one on the offensive end, there have been hiccups on the defensive end. Allen is still trying to digest the Heat's aggressive scheme, a fact that was on display when Battier and Allen got mixed up and allowed Golden State's Draymond Green to slip to the basket for this game-winning layup in December. With that said, the Heat's so-so defense thus far has less to do with Allen and more to do with an undersized frontcourt that struggles to rebound and the team's inability to force turnovers. Miami has the highest eFG against in the NBA and the second-highest TS% against.
Allen's value to the Heat will most likely be most apparent come playoff time, when the games slow down and halfcourt execution becomes paramount. If he can maintain the efficiency that he's demonstrated thus far, and Miami can figure out a way to compensate for their relatively diminutive stature, there's a good chance Biscayne Boulevard will see its third championship parade come June. Whether the Heat successfully defend their crown or not, it's hard to argue with the return Miami has gotten on its $3 million investment.