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Tony Allen is known for his defense, but the Grizzlies should still value his offensive abilities

Tony Allen is still a valuable piece of the Grizzlies offense.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows Tony Allen as the Memphis Grizzlies' defensive wizard. The little offense he is known for is the blunders: the missed wide open layups, nonsensical turnovers, and bad jump shooting are what made Allen earn the nickname "Trick or Treat Tony Allen".

Yes, Allen makes boneheaded mistakes, and no, he cannot shoot to save his life. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have value in the Grizzlies offense. His tremendous basketball IQ has made him one of the best cutters in the NBA. His relentless hustle and determination have made him a force on the boards, and he will kill you in transition. Sometimes Allen's offense is offensive, but don't discount his value. It'll come back to bite you.

The place where Allen does the most damage is with his cutting off the ball. This is where Allen's inability to hit a jump shot works in his favor. When a defense packs the paint to make life harder on Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph post-ups, they abandon Allen on the perimeter. Sometimes defenses will just be watching one of the post players while Allen sneaks around to find an open seam to the basket. Allen's constant activity can kind of make up for the fact that he can't shoot.


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Here the Blazers' defense is all out of whack so Allen takes advantage. Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and Meyers Leonard are watching Gasol in the post. This leaves Allen to take advantage with a nice cut through the middle of the defense off a screen. Gasol hits him with a slick pass because he's expecting the cut.

Gasol and Allen have developed a nice two-man game due to Gasol's passing ability out of the high post and Allen's back door cutting ability.


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That two-man game is on display here. I could watch Gasol do this all day. It's one of my favorite things the Grizzlies do. Here you see Allen call for the ball right when he makes contact with Gasol. Then it's just Gasol being awesome and Allen knowing what to do when cutting.

Allen doesn't only make good cuts when Gasol or Randolph have the ball.


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A Jerryd Bayless appearance! Bayless goes around a Gasol screen so the Kings defense rotates to help. They are already sinking off of Allen because of his inability to hit a jumper. Then they turn their backs to him and concentrate on the driver. That's easy pickings for Allen. He cuts, Bayless hits him with a nice pass, and it's two easy points.

The Grizzlies offense isn't great. That's not big news. It relies on second chance opportunities to get points. Randolph is one of the best offensive rebounders in the game. Gasol struggles (doesn't try) on the offensive boards. Allen averaged more offensive rebounds than Gasol. The Grizzlies need someone like Allen to relentlessly follow missed shots and create second chance opportunities.


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First off, I have to talk about what Courtney Lee is doing here. I want to think he thought he was involved in some Freaky Friday scenario with LeBron James. Luckily, Allen recognizes that he has a chance for an offensive rebound at the perimeter and sprints toward the goal. The Oklahoma City defenders don't have a chance to grab the rebound before Allen gets to it. It's half knowing how the ball comes off the rim and half hustle.

Allen produces more points off hustle than any player in the league. Whether it's off of offensive rebounds or steals in the back court, Allen is always going for the ball. It can hurt more than it helps. He can wrack up silly fouls or be behind a play and have to catch up.


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Dwight Howard isn't the most cognizant guy in the world, so coming off a rebound, he doesn't notice Allen lurking behind him. This is where Allen can wrack up the fouls, but instead he gets the ball cleanly and ends up with it. Allen makes a nice pass to Gasol who powers through Howard.

This isn't the only place his hustle comes into play. Allen can make an impact in transition in a variety of ways. He can get into passing lanes and get steals with his one-on-one defense, then turn them into points.

The Grizzlies defense is good at scoring off of turnovers. They have to be. There will be times when Allen misses an open layup, but he's become a legitimate threat in transition over the years.

The second way Allen makes in impact in transition is the way he fills lanes on fast breaks.


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Instead of sitting back here and letting Beno Udrih take someone one-on-one in transition, Allen hustles down and gets an easier bucket. Allen does this consistently. He'll run with just about anyone on the fast break, and usually he finds ways to get open to get easy buckets.

My favorite thing Allen does on the break is follow the play. It's one of the most underrated things he does. If there is no lane or a shot is about to be blocked, he slows down and waits for a guard to dump it off to him.


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There are so many examples of Allen doing this in a Grizzlies uniform. I just could not pass up an opportunity to use a prime Rajon Rondo gif. I don't even care that it looks like my toaster made this gif. It's great. It looks like a classic chase down block is coming. There probably would've been one if it weren't for Allen. He recognizes where he's needed in transition and fills the need. Here he follows the play and gets an easy bucket.

As a driver, Allen is limited because he isn't a good ball handler. The one move he has is a left-to-right crossover that isn't really fooling anyone; he can't go left and looks down when he dribbles a lot for an NBA player. At its height his dribble-drive game is this herky thing that kind of works. At its nadir Allen is going to look like he doesn't know what to do with a basketball.


The Clippers are on their heels here and Allen takes advantage. There's his left-to-right crossover, gather, and finish. It's best for him to attack the basket like this in transition because, in the half court, the paint will be way too crowded. If he had any semblance of a floater it would help, but he doesn't so he has to pick and choose when to attack.

The best place for Allen to drive in the half court is the baseline. Usually the ball will be swung around to Allen in the corner where he can take advantage of a scrambling defense.


Here is a perfect example of this. The Thunder defense is off-balance and they are backed so far off Allen that they have to scramble to recover. Allen goes straight to the cup where he finishes using the rim as protection. This is something he is good at, but will rely on too much. When he tries too hard to avoid getting his shot blocked or go into a foul he'll miss easy shots.

When you aren't the strongest finisher in the world and people jump to block your shots at the rim it's important to be able to pass the ball. Allen's passing ability is unique. His best passes come to big men off of drives. Sometimes it's a pass into a post up or a drive where he sucks in the defense and dishes off to a waiting big man.


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This is the Grizzlies offense at its most fluid. Gasol, Conley, and the departed Pondexter provide spacing  Gasol has the ball on the right elbow and dishes it to a cutting Allen. Randolph's man Ryan Anderson rotates over to cut off Allen's drive to the basket.

There will be nights when Allen misses an open layup and takes too many jumpers. But there will also be nights when he makes important cuts, finishes at the rim, and maybe even hits a jump shot. The mistakes he makes are not what Allen is. Without him the Grizzlies would be in dire straits.

He's never going to average 10 points per game again (averaged 11.5 in '06-07). He'll never score 30 points or have a high usage rate, and that's okay. The Grizzlies don't need him to do that. They need him to be The Grindfather. Warts and all.