5 NBA Players Who Could Use A Little More Tony Allen In Them

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…


Ryan Anderson
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.

The whole Wizards team
Have you ever wondered what would happen if we gave an entire team Tony Allen’s jump shot and offensive decision-making? You’d get the Wizards. I’ve never been so appalled watching a team play, and this one hits home because I believe in John Wall and even if everyone else is ready to jump ship, I still have the faith. Plus, while many are trying to paint this team as a bunch of malcontents, idiots and selfish brats, you won’t find a locker room having more fun than this one.

So while Andray Blatche probably won’t stop shooting off-balance runners, Jordan Crawford probably won’t quit trying to prove he’s the best Jordan ever and Nick Young probably won’t stop with his 16/1/1 lines, a dose of some Chicago street will at least help improve that defense. I’ve seen JaVale McGee stupidly goal tend at least three or four shots this season, and he’s routinely out of position defensively because he’s always going for the spectacular highlight. Allen has made a habit of being fundamentally sound defensively (Memphis gives up over seven more points with Allen on the bench). He’ll strip a player before he brings the ball up. He’ll poke the ball out on the box or play physical enough that a scorer will be shooting a 20-foot fadeaway instead of a 16-footer. He’ll belly up 20 feet from the rim.

The Wizards have as much athletic talent as anyone. If they had even one Tony Allen, they’d at least not be blowing 20-point leads to New Jersey.

Marcus Thornton
Imagine combining Thornton’s offensive creativity with Allen’s toughness and defensive instincts? We’re talking All-Star. Thornton has been putting up huge numbers ever since landing in Sacramento, and is the leading scorer on a team that includes two future stars in Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. But as another one of these new-age small gunners, Thornton really struggles defensively.

The team is the same whether he’s on the court or off it, but that’s more because everyone in Sacramento struggles to defend. Thornton is worse off than everyone else outside of Jimmer. He has a defensive rating of 112, which is near the bottom of the entire league among players getting big minutes. The only ones worse who are playing at least 24 minutes a night? Chauncey Billups, Anthony Morrow, D.J. Augustin, Ben Gordon, Kevin Martin and Tayshaun Prince.

In fact, Allen needs to be the defensive model for any undersized two guard. Where he was once jumping out of the gym, Allen now uses his quickness and instincts to frustrate. As a smaller guard having to defend 6-8 athletes, that’s about the only thing they have.

Devin Harris
Finally, the man who inspired this list. Who remembers Harris being Dallas’ stopper during their run to the 2006 Finals? He was one of the five fastest players in the league with the ball. But his real value was as a 6-3 guard who could check point guards and then switch off the ball once Jason Terry came in. I think I’m speaking for many when I ask: what the hell happened?

Even as the Jazz are slowly creeping into “biggest sleeper in the game” territory this year, Harris has been awful. He’s shooting under 37 percent, scoring 9.3 a game and averaging 4.4 assists. Those numbers are hard to look at, but check these out: the Jazz are over 21 points worse with their starting point guard on the court, and defensively, they are giving up nearly nine points per 100 possessions more when he’s playing.

For a player who made his chops early on as a defensive pest, this makes no sense. Utah is already looking dangerous at 6-3. But if they had a point guard to go with that frontline? We’re talking playoffs and perhaps a top six seed.

Harris was never the physical enforcer Allen is on the wings. But many of the characteristics that make Allen perhaps the best at stopping a hot scorer – the strong hands, quick feet and ability to anticipate – were displayed early on by Harris. The Wisconsin product had recent problems with his calf, but to have fallen off this steeply is shocking.

*…stats from ESPN, basketball-reference.com and 82games.com…*

Who else needs a little dose of Tony Allen’s defense in their game?

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