- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers couldn't look the other way on Ray Allen's struggles this season.Over the three weeks leading up to start of the new league year on July 1, we'll take a player-by-player look at the Celtics' 2011-12 roster and how each player's season unfolded, assigning a grade for their overall performance. This is the first in the series of report cards:
Player: Ray Allen
2011-12 averages: 14.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, 34 mpg
2011-12 salary: $10 million
Season in a paragraph: Even before a late-season ankle injury forced him to a reserve role, Allen struggled to generate quality looks with as much ease as in recent seasons. After shooting a career-best 49.1 percent from the field in a stellar 2010-11 campaign, Allen dipped to 45.8 percent (just slightly above his career average). Ironically, he was almost as efficient beyond the arc as in front of it, setting another career best (and Celtics franchise record) while shooting 45.3 percent from 3-point land. Overall, Allen's minutes and scoring average dipped to their lowest marks since his rookie season (13.4 points, 30.9 minutes in 1996-97).
Season highlight: Allen actually started the new season on fire, particularly beyond the arc. After splashing 6-of-8 3-pointers in a late-December loss in Miami (season-high 28 points), Allen came home to hit 6-of-7 triples as part of a 27-point effort in a 100-92 win over the Washington Wizards in early January. After that win over Washington, Garnett remarked, "Classic Ray Allen, man. Classic Ray Allen."
Season lowlight: The middle of March couldn't have gone much worse for Allen, who was already struggling after the strong start. Not only did he initially tweak his ankle during Boston's west coast trip, but that was the same week his name swirled in trade rumors (including a near deal that would have swapped him for Memphis' O.J. Mayo). Battling that balky ankle -- and Avery Bradley's emergence -- Allen missed 15 of the team's final 20 games -- moving to a reserve role for four of the five games he did appear in -- then had to sit out the first two games of the postseason before grinding through the remainder of the playoffs.
Final grade: B-
Teacher's notes: Allen has always been able to mask his defensive woes with his consistent offensive output. But when he struggled to generate quality looks this season, suddenly those struggles to consistently stop other perimeter players were magnified. Consider this: Even though Allen finished in the 98th percentile among all offensive players, averaging 1.105 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data, the Celtics were still looking to move him to the bench for much of the year. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he had considered putting Allen on the bench even before the season began and Mickael Pietrus' inspired defensive play had Rivers pondering the swap straight up until Pietrus endured his own injury (concussion) in late March. That's when Bradley seized the opportunity, thriving in a starting role, and the numbers hammered home just how much better Boston's first unit performed with Bradley's defensive-minded presence on the floor to start game. Bradley's own injury forced Allen back into the starting lineup late in the postseason, but Allen -- clearly hindered by the ankle -- never quite got it going, averaging a career playoff-worst 10.7 points on 39.5 percent shooting overall (including just 30.4 percent beyond the arc). Heck, he shot just 71.1 percent at the free-throw line during the postseason.
What's next?: Allen will reportedly undergo surgery this morning to remove bone spurs from his right ankle. He said after a Game 7 loss in Miami on Saturday that going under the knife was his first priority. Rehab will follow, as will a likely hunt for a new team. While you can't rule out a return to Boston, particularly if the Celtics keep the other parts of their core in place, you can't help but wonder if it's simply become time for the two sides to move on. Allen seemed stung by the move to a bench role and -- while ankle woes certainly affected him -- he did little to leave a mark on the postseason. He might simply command more than what Boston is willing to pay on the open market and his age -- soon-to-be 37 -- will give Boston pause (even if he's defied age throughout his career and you can't help but wonder how he'll perform if he can get healthy again next season).
Bonus reading: Our friends at TrueHoop partner CelticsHub opine on the potential end of the Allen era in Boston.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Allen's 2011-12 season? Vote in the poll above and leave your thoughts in the comments section.
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