Tony Allen has been with the Memphis Grizzlies for six seasons, and he'll undoubtedly go down in Grizzlies history as one of its most influential players and one of the leaders of this "Grit and Grind" era. His tenacity and toughness are on display every time he steps on the court, and his hard-nosed defense has earned him multiple NBA all-defense honors. But as the Grindfather enters this pivotal season at the age of 34 with a new coach at the helm, his role and game may have to change.
On one hand, Tony Allen should continue to do this season what he's always done. His job is to lock down opponents and be the main weapon on defense. It seems like the bigger the star, the bigger the defensive show Allen puts on:
He's always risen to every challenge, and he has always been the definition of "All Heart." Allen always leaves everything he's got on the court, and his antics have always frustrated opponents. His perimeter defense is definitely legendary, and his weaknesses on offense have always been made up for on defense.
However, his offensive struggles can become extremely frustrating for fans. Watching Allen miss open layup after open layup can become tiring, and the lack of respect that opponents give him on offense is deflating. But this has always been the case, and Grizzlies fans have accepted the fact for the most part. For his career, he has averaged 8.1 points per game. In no way, shape, or form does that scream "starting NBA Shooting Guard" in 2016.
However, we all saw a glimpse of a more offensive-oriented Tony Allen last season when the Grizzlies were hit with a wave of injuries. In the month of March during the 2015-16 season, he averaged 13.1 PPG. He was relied on for a lot more offensive output last season than in the past, and he definitely stepped up to the plate. In the playoffs, though, it wasn't enough. And Allen isn't consistent enough on offense to be relied on regularly.
This season, Tony will need to be a little more consistent on offense for the Grizzlies to have success with him on the court. What has plagued the Grizzlies for a handful of years is a slow offense. If Fizdale tries to change things up (as most suspect that he will), then Allen will have to adjust if he wants regular playing time. His value on defense is important, but his presence on the other end can oftentimes bog down the offense and mess up the spacing.
This year, Allen will have to adjust his game as new teammates like Chandler Parsons are entering the picture. Plus, with the Grizzlies striving for a better flowing offense this season, Allen will have to become more consistent. This doesn't mean TA needs to change his game. He needs to continue doing what he does best, which is locking down opponents. But as he ages and the "Grit and Grind Era" enters a new phase, he'll have to become more consistent offensively and at least be reliable in making open layups.
Like I said, we've already seen a glimpse of the more offensively-oriented Grindfather last season, so we know he's capable of it. It doesn't mean he needs to put up 20+ points every night, however. Whether he's starting or coming off the bench this season, he just needs to be respectable on offense and continue playing hard-nosed defense, as well as tighten up his shot making around the rim.
Over the years, we've witnessed the highs and lows of Tony Allen. As long as his production on the court outweighs his flaws, then he'll continue to play steady minutes this season. But if Tony's tricks appear more than his treats, then he'll have a problem this season at the crowded wing position.
How much more does TA have left in the tank? Will his age start to catch up with him? Will he be able to adjust to Coach Fizdale's style? These questions won't be answered until after opening night, but for now we can speculate and base assumptions off of his past history with Memphis. And his history with the Memphis Grizzlies can be summarized with these simple words: "All Heart, Grit Grind."