clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2015-2016 Memphis Grizzlies Player Preview: Tony Allen

We know that the Grindfather plays at his best with plentiful, consistent minutes, but will the Memphis Grizzlies still be able to supply him with the same playing time he's seen in the past?

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies are once again going into a season with the same core they assembled in the 2010-2011 season. Pieces have come and gone yet Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen remain. Allen is the Grizzly who's been in Memphis the fewest seasons, but he has had a huge impact in that time.

There's no way they were planning on this defensive specialist becoming a part of the core that helped turn professional basketball around in Memphis, TN. This guy, who can't hit a jump shot and missed so many wide-open layups that Marc Gasol started fining him $100, was the one to give the Grizzlies an identity.

That identity is how he contributed the most last season, and we're likely to see that going forward.

For the sixth season in a row, Allen will be called upon not only to guard, but also to stop the best players in the league. Last season, the Grizzlies' perimeter defense struggled as a whole. It wasn't the same as in years past mostly due to injuries and the addition of Jeff Green. Allen was still able to step up and help the Grizzlies be a top-10 defense once again.

Of the Grizzlies that played over 15 minutes per game, Allen had the second lowest defensive rating at 94.9. He averaged 2 steals a game and was elected to the NBA's All-Defensive First Team.

Here is Allen's defensive shot chart from last season:


(from NBASavant)

This is what a First-Team All Defense defensive shot chart looks like. He holds opponents well below league average shooting percentages in every spot except the right corner.

Allen hounds ball handlers above the break and forces them into the paint. When they enter the paint he is exceptional at contesting the shot without fouling or forcing a turnover.

Above the break threes are tough to make against Allen. He can close out like a maniac or fight over a screen so no three pointer is completely open. Having Allen chase you around a screen has to be like being a mailman running away from a pit bull. The mailman knows he's going to get caught, it's just about how fast it happens.

Because Allen is so good at contesting threes, some opposing ball handlers will try to go take advantage in the mid-range. It's a bit more effective, but he still does a fantastic job at contesting those shots.

Allen fares better than you'd think a 6'4" guard would in defense near the rim. According to, league average around the rim is 66.5%. Part of this is getting to the rim on Allen, which is already difficult, so finishing over him is even more difficult. Bigger opponents can post him up, but Allen is strong and tough to back down.

Allen has all of the tools to recreate last year's performance. Age hasn't caught up to him yet. He's 33 and coming off one of his best seasons ever. There are some outside factors that could hold him down, though.

Injuries have been a problem for Allen over the past two seasons, during which he only played 55 and 63 games while struggling with a variety of issues. Most notable was the hamstring injury that limited much of his mobility in the Grizzlies' playoff series against the Golden State Warriors. The Grizzlies have the wing depth to survive post season games without Allen, but they need him come playoff time.

The Grizzlies' wing depth is something that can help and hurt Allen. Stats have consistently shown that the Grizzlies are a better team when Allen plays 25+ minutes per game (s/o Chris Vernon). Coach Dave Joerger has intimated to Geoff Calkins on "The Geoff Calkins Show" that he likes size on the wing. Allen is only 6'4", so even though he is better than Jeff Green at offense, defense, and just basketball in general, he's going to lose minutes to him.

Allen already doesn't like coming off the bench, so if his minutes start to slip like they did in Joerger's first year coaching, he's going to get unhappy. Allen is the best wing on the Grizzlies, Courtney Lee is a close second, and his minutes should reflect that. Injuries or poor play are the only reasons that any non-Lee wing gets more minutes than Allen this season.

Each year Allen has his name thrown around in trade discussions. This season probably won't be any different. If the Grizzlies try to upgrade the wing spot or acquire some three point shooting, Allen's name may start popping up again. He may need to be attached if the Grizzlies want to get anyone that can help win games in return.

The Grizzlies will need Allen this season. Just like last season and the season before that. He'll be ready when his number is called.

Related Tony Allen Links:

Grizzlies Book Club

Tony Allen Is Known For His Defense, but the Grizzlies Should Still Value His Offensive Abilities

The Bad Boys Of Beale Street