In the grand scheme of big names returning to Milwaukee, Ray Allen has long been a favorite target of Bucks fans' speculation. On Saturday he did his part to add some fuel to the fire.
Though he hasn't played an NBA game in over two years, Allen told the Hartford Courant this week that he is considering a potential comeback, in the process naming his former teams in Milwaukee and Boston as potential destinations. Dom Amore writes that despite long running speculation about a reunion with LeBron James in Cleveland, the 41-year-old Allen has in fact spoken to both the Bucks and Celtics about a possible return:
"I would love going back to those places if it worked out," Allen said, "because both teams are good, too. It doesn't necessarily have to be championship-or-bust for me to go back to the NBA.
"I want to be in a situation where I thought I could help, play a little bit and help where they have good young talent."
It's obviously not insignificant that Allen is the source of this. On the one hand, he could have played somewhere the past two seasons, so he's not your garden variety washed-up vet trying to drum up interest (shockingly, there have been plenty of those since NBA salaries began ballooning a month ago). With 13 roster spots filled and a lack of proven shooting on the wing, the Bucks could also use a veteran shooter who could play modest minutes, knock down some open shots and otherwise focus on being a good influence on their young stars. After all, Allen could teach Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton a thing or two about becoming a star in Milwaukee, right?You'd be hard-pressed to find a bit player who would generate as much fan excitement as Allen, but it could certainly be more than a novelty act.
On the flip side, Allen's decision to sit out the past two seasons suggests he is particular about the conditions of a comeback, and it's tough to say exactly how much he has left in the tank. Allen's well-known work ethic allowed him to be a useful role player up until his retirement: in 13/14 he connected on nearly 38% of his threes, posted an excellent 59.0% true shooting mark and was a (just barely) plus player by box score plus-minus metrics despite his obvious limitations as a defender. Yet that was also two years ago, which is a long time for a guy who would become the league's oldest player if he returns. Only five players have played at that age or older, though Allen at least sounds intent on figuring things out sooner rather than later:
A young rebuilding team is unlikely, because, Allen said, "then I might as well coach." He expects to make a decision by the start of training camp, rather than look to join a team in midseason.
"At the start of the year, if nothing pans out, then basically I'll retire," he said.
So what might an Allen return look like if it happened in Milwaukee? Well, the Bucks are now capped out following the official signing of Miles Plumlee, but they could sign Allen (or anyone else) for up to $2.9 million using their cap room mid-level exception. Roster-wise it's certainly possible to squeeze him into one of their final two spots, though you wonder if adding Allen might affect the Bucks' willingness to bring back Steve Novak.
His arrival would also mean additional competition for the likes of Rashad Vaughn and Malcolm Brogdon for rotation minutes at the two -- which at this point also figures to include point guards Matthew Dellavedova and Michael Carter-Williams -- though it's tough to say if he can beat any of them out for minutes at this point anyway. While you'd assume Allen can still knock down open jumpers, his once-explosive athleticism had almost completely abandoned him by his final season in Miami, and he would presumably be a clear liability on the defensive end. In other words, any move would be predicated as much on what he can bring off the court as on it.
At this point I'd caution against expecting anything to happen. Remember that Allen has regularly been linked with potential comebacks over the past two years, and the same arguments for coming to Milwaukee existed each of the last two seasons, too. So don't get your hopes up about seeing the new #34 kick out to the old #34 for open threes just yet -- but it's a fun idea in a slow month, isn't it?