New Orleans Pelicans

Tony Allen strengthens Pelicans chances of defensive dominance

Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday, March 31, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Brandon Dill/AP photo

The New Orleans Pelicans went defense on Monday when they made the decision sign veteran guard Tony Allen to a one-year deal. Perhaps his defensive presence will strengthen the wings enough for the Pelicans to finally take flight in 2017.

That’s the hope anyway for a team that is also in need of more offensive talent. Even the All-Star combination of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins won’t be enough to see the Pelicans through to the Promised Land in a jam-packed Western Conference division. However, the Pelicans will make life more difficult on the defensive end of the floor for opponents.

Allen, who turns 36 in January, should factor into that equation.

The Pelicans knew exactly what they were doing when they signed the “Grindfather” to a deal. He’s no longer a young man, but he is still one of the game’s best defenders. Seeing him on the floor serving out humble pie like Uncle Drew in a pickup game is a yearly ritual in the NBA. While with the Memphis Grizzlies, he was a six-time member of the NBA’s All-Defensive team. He was also an NBA champion with the Boston Celtics in 2008.

Being a former champion goes a long way for a veteran player joining a young team. His wing defense can help the Pelicans on the floor, but his leadership and experience is something the team probably valued off the court as well. That combination is invaluable to what the Pelicans are trying to build in New Orleans.

Allen isn’t going to make them a contender overnight, but he will certainly make them a team to be reckoned with on the defensive end of the floor.

Despite being robbed of some of his physical gifts, he still demonstrates the kind of feisty, persistent play that has kept him locked in as a foundational piece for only two NBA teams in his career. This isn’t a case where the Pelicans are getting some journeyman well past his prime. Allen was still an elite defender last season and averaged 9.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.

There is plenty of grind left in those 35-year-old legs to make a difference in New Orleans.

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