If there was one player I wished I had been more like growing up, it’s Tony Allen. Not the line drive shooting part. I’m talking about the ruggedness, the defense, the “time to grind” bloodhound that never stops. Tony Allen isn’t a star. He’ll never be one. But even before Memphis… for Boston fans he was rather unique. Six long years, playing nearly the exact same role with the exact same PT every season. He wasn’t supposed to be a good enough shooter or decision-maker to make it full-time, and even when he was looking like he might finally make it, he went out and dunked during a stop in play, tearing up his knee in the process.
Everyone knows how much I love Tony Allens. I made a list of the 10 toughest guys in the league over the summer, and it was partly inspired by the one guy in the league who can best make Kobe Bryant look like Mark Bryant.
Well, now it’s Allen’s birthday and while born days are always fun (I’ve yet to spend one with an NBA player, but I’m sure those dudes go hard like Yelawolf at a dirt bike race), it’s hard to be celebrating in Memphis these days. Zach Randolph is out for a while with a knee injury. Darrell Arthur is out even longer with a torn ACL. The Grizzlies are giving big minutes to career journeymen and rookies.
But the largest problem isn’t injuries. It’s defense. Allen’s calling card. Last season, the Grizzlies were eighth in the whole league with a 102.5 defensive efficiency rating. This year? Even with Allen getting more minutes, they have fallen off to No. 18 (Side note: this number is slightly confusing. Their rating has actually gone up to 101.1. But with a shortened season and so many games in so little time, it’s the league’s offenses that are taking the hits. Shooting is down, and the Grizz aren’t taking advantage of it the way defensive “stalwarts” like Cleveland, Minnesota and Toronto are.).
Hopefully, Memphis gets back to grinding and Tony Allen gets back to pestering every wing scorer he goes up against. If only everyone in the NBA had his toughness and unrelenting aggressiveness.
So in honor of Tony Allen’s birthday (He’s the big 3-0 today), if a genie came down and offered me chances to find five guys who would be much better off if they had a lil’ Tony Allen in them – and we’re talking the good aspects… not the bad – here’s who I would choose…
Anderson keeps getting mentioned on this site lately. But that’s what happens when you go from being an aftermath as a Net to one of the league’s best-kept secrets just a few calendar turns later. Look at Ryan Anderson. You’d think he’s the second coming of Steve Novak. Either that or a confused, oversized high schooler who took a wrong turn along the way. Instead, he’s averaging 18 points and over seven rebounds a night for a playoff team, and his PER of 25.17 is better than even Dwight Howard’s (24.94). When he’s on the court, the Magic’s offense is a whopping 24.3 points per 100 possessions better.
The problem? He’s still not a very good defender. Instead of Howard, the Magic take their cue from their shooters – they have so many – and Anderson is a perfect example of that. Orlando gives up 4.2 more points per 100 possessions with their second-best player on the floor.
Anderson is so effective offensively (doesn’t that sound weird?) that if he had just a little dog in him, we’d be talking about him as one of the best up-and-coming four men in the game. Instead, he’s being cast as somewhat of a one trick pony. He wouldn’t even need hops. Give him Allen’s freakishly quick hands, and he’d make a lot more plays in the paint instead of getting pushed around.
Carmelo Anthony/Amar’e Stoudemire
While Anthony has been very average defensively this year – and that’s actually an improvement – Stoudemire is having perhaps the worst start to a season in his career. STAT is used to manning the middle and having room to drive to the basket at will. While that always came back to haunt his teams in the playoffs, it did wonders for his scoring numbers. Now with Tyson Chandler clogging the paint – and stuck there since he can’t shoot at all – Stoudemire is struggling, shooting 41 percent from the field. 21 and nine sounds nice, but the Knicks are 11.8 points per 100 possessions better when Stoudemire’s on the bench. Crazy right?
For the Knicks, there are viable questions about just how far a group led by two defensive liabilities can take them. Considering the Knicks will be playing Miami or Chicago in the second round if everything goes according to plan this year (which is no guarantee right now), they’ll have to get stops.