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Keeping Tony Allen

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If the Grizzlies have to choose between Z-Bo or TA, I vote TA.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Allen and Zach Randolph are both unrestricted free agents this summer, you’ve heard that 100 times over the past three months. Unrestricted free agents are players that have completed their contract with a team and are given the right to sign with any team for any amount of money.

July 1st marks the first day that free agents can start making verbal agreements to teams, and July 6th is the first day those players can sign contracts.

There is a veteran’s minimum salary for players that have played over 10 years in the league, which both Tony Allen and Zach Randolph have accomplished. Both players are definitely going to make more than the minimum (just under $3 million), but that is something to consider when signing aging players.

Both players are 35 years old.

It will be tough for the Grizzlies to sign both TA and Z-Bo for the next few seasons. Memphis simply doesn’t have the money to keep them. With three max players and some young talent that will get paid in the next three to four years, money is tight. With that said, the Grizzlies could have the option to keep one of them.

I vote to keep Tony Allen.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Zach Randolph. He’s still got it. He scores more, rebounds more, and arguably contributes more overall than TA. But hear me out…

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Z-Bo’s most recent contract was a 2-year, $20 million deal, and his previous was four years for $66 million. He’s expensive; that’s what that means. Six years ago, I didn’t mind that deal - Z-Bo was the first option on offense, he was close to averaging a double-double every year, and the Grizzlies did not have three max players on the roster.

Randolph won’t ask for the same amount of money he did in 2011, since he knows he’s aging and his numbers have fallen steadily over the last three seasons. But he is still a solid NBA player capable of making $10 million or just under for the next two seasons. That’s just too much money for a power forward that can’t shoot long range jumpers, can’t jump, and comes off the bench.

Where can the Grizzlies find those characteristics close to home? JaMychal Green. He is also a free agent this summer. Green will be asking for a hefty deal, but it will be similar to what Z-Bo would cost, just more long-term. JaMychal Green is a restricted free agent, meaning the Grizz can match any offer he receives from other teams in free agency. That will be an interesting back and forth.

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is changing. Zach Randolph’s bully-ball style is fading away, and the Grizzlies need more speed combined with shooting on the floor.

Tony Allen can contribute at least one of those, the one not involving shooting. TA is probably the only shooting guard in the NBA that can’t actually shoot. Everyone knows he can’t shoot, except for Tony Allen. But he’s an underrated scorer. He averaged 9.1 PPG and 5.5 rebounds this season. Those are numbers for a guy that is not an option on offense and can’t shoot. His points come from cuts to the basket and put-back lay ups.

There are moments that Tony Allen frustrates the whole city of Memphis, but he counters those with “first-team-all-defense” plays that prove his worth.

His contract that just ended was a 4-year $20 million deal, the one before was three years, $9 million. He is cheap.

$5 million a year is likely the price tag for him again moving forward, and the Grizzlies can afford that.

Defense is not a lost art, either. Every team has an elite scorer that has to be stopped to have a chance to win. Tony Allen thrives in that defensive role. He proved just how important he is to the Grizzlies in this year’s playoffs. I’m not sure how much you watched, but Kawhi Leonard didn’t miss for six games. We needed TA on the floor.

Another overlooked fact regarding TA is that the Grizzlies hold his Bird Rights. That means the team can offer him any amount of money up to the max and can go over the cap to do it. Allen has already expressed interest in staying in Memphis, he told Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal that he isn’t trying to “break the bank” to stay in Memphis.

Tony Allen will have a spot in the NBA for the next two to three years, as long as he can stay healthy. The unfortunate calf injury that ended his 2017 campaign shouldn't linger, and he still has bounce and speed. With his lack of shooting ability in a shoot-first league, his value will continue to decrease. But any team can use his defensive ability and willingness to give up the spotlight.

Memphis can use his veteran leadership and his scrappiness. The city loves him, he will be cheap, and he won’t fit into a better system on any other team.

If it comes down to just keeping one of them, I vote Tony Allen.