Tony Allen: To Stay or to Go?

Feb 3, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) dribbles the ball around Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo (5) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 3, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) dribbles the ball around Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo (5) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA is a business. To run a successful business, you need to make sacrifices. In this case, I will be addressing the Tony Allen situation.

The unrestricted free agent brings plenty to the table, but is the aging defender talented enough for Memphis to waste on a roster spot?

In recent years, it would be hard to argue that Tony Allen didn’t earn every penny of his $5 Million a year contract. He has been the backbone of the Memphis’ defense and the heart of the Grizzlies’ franchise, all without having a jumpshot. This is what the decision is going to come down to.

On one side you have, “First Team All-Defense, he can lock down anyone, IT’S TONY ALLEN.” On the other side you have, “His jumpshot and blown layups bring tears to my eyes, and the fact he makes $5M a year hurts my pride.”

The sides are opinions, but whether Allen is on the team next year is going to affect the dynamic of this team. Do the Grizzlies follow Dave Fizdale towards the light, shifting towards a more offensive style of play? Or do they continue to do what has gotten them to playoffs seven years in a row, albeit early exits?

Keep Him

Grizzly diehards want Tony Allen on the team. He brings energy, changes the momentum of the game with his defense and manages to turn the FedEx Forum into a madhouse with just about anything he does. Allen may not ever break an NBA scoring record, but he’s still an impact player.

What matters the most is that Tony Allen creates opportunities. He gives the Grizzlies a chance to run in transition, score easy baskets, and his selflessness keeps the offense moving. Granted he has averaged the same number of assists as turnovers, but the thought is what counts, right? If he is trying to make the best play, that is all we can ask for.

The main reason to keep Allen: he sells tickets. He’s a fan favorite, and fans come to see him play. Without him, Memphis may never reach the playoffs in the first place, and the Grizzlies have no player they can rally around like they can Tony. This is a great deal of speculation, but chances are if he doesn’t come to Memphis, his career would have likely ended in Boston. Not many teams need, nor want to give a roster spot to, a guard hybrid that lacks the ability to score. Luckily, he was a picture-perfect fit for the Grizzlies style of play, arguably because he was there and pioneered the “Grit ‘n’ Grind” mindset.

For any of these reasons, Allen needs to stay where he is the most loved. Memphis needs Tony as much as Tony needs Memphis.

Get Rid Of Him

He. Cannot. Shoot. I can’t stress this enough.

Not to mention, he’s 35 and slowly regressing. He has lost a step on defense, overruling that he’s worth giving a spot based on his defense alone. It’s ok when I miss blown layups. I don’t get paid to play, and I run too fast. Sadly, Tony Allen has the same problem but has been in the league since I was 12. That’s not good. Like, AT ALL. That should be enough to make you think, “Yeah, we need to look elsewhere.”

Like it or not, this league has been trending towards offense for decades. The 90’s may have been all about tough defense, but since 2000 and Kobe Bryant, offense has become the priority. Teams may draft for defense, trade for defensive depth, but teams build around offense. This is exactly what the Grizzlies need to do.

How many times have you seen Tony Allen ruin a Grizzly possession? Probably too many to count. With the few possessions Memphis’ already gets, he’s seriously hindering the production of his teammates. Trying to make passes he cannot make ends up causing the Grizzlies to fight back from being a few points down. It’s not good for a team that already struggles to score. All in all, getting rid of Allen comes down to the fact that he is a liability on offense. It might be ok that teams leave Joakim Noah open, but as for Tony Allen…come on man, you’re a guard in the NBA.

(Looks at Andre Roberson)

Related Story: Grizzlies' Offseason Priorities

Final Verdict


Yes, no offense is bad, but he can only hurt the offense when he’s on the court. Every team has a few guys on the roster that never see a minute on the court. By seriously cutting Allen’s contract, the Grizzlies can sign him as a veteran that will help the young guys hone in on their defense.

Remember how I said the NBA is shifting towards offense, away from defense? Well, this means that defensive gurus like Tony Allen will be valuable as a veteran for the young guys on the team. Younger players learn from veterans, and seeing how Allen is the only player on the roster with a championship, they had better listen up.

Tony Allen’s offensive woes combined with his age should keep him off the court, but he needs to find a way to instill his mindset into the rest of the Grizzlies. That process has, more than likely, already started. The only problem is, he was still getting way too many minutes. The Grizzlies need to commit to keeping Allen as just a defensive substitute that will help guide the younger players towards a more defensive core, without sacrificing offense. As a team, the Grizzlies need to head towards a more offensive approach, but getting rid of Tony Allen altogether will do more harm than good.