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Ray Allen was almost the missing piece for the Rockets in 2014-2015

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Ray Allen was almost a Rocket. Just another “what if” for a franchise with more than a few.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Hall of Fame Press Conference Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

What if? The phrase in the English language is a simple question, but in sports, it can change the course of an entire franchise. Unfortunately for the Houston Rockets, “what if” is a phrase that continuously rises when reflecting on the history of the franchise.

While many of the Rockets what if scenarios revolve around the health of Ralph Sampson and Yao Ming, Houston is maybe four years removed from one of their biggest what-ifs of the decade.

Over the past week, basketball fans received plenty of excitement and entertainment during NBA All-Star Weekend, but none more so than Ray Allen. At age 43 and five years removed from his last game, Allen put on a vintage performance during the 2019 Celebrity All-Star Game.

Despite his team coming up short in an 82-80 loss, Allen recorded 24 points, nine rebounds, and five assists, as he proved to the world how he became one of the greatest shooters in league history. Allen knocked down several four-pointers (the Celeb game features a four-point line) in the game, and his hot shooting caught the eyes of Rockets’ general manager, Daryl Morey.

Impressed by his performance Friday night, Morey openly offered Allen a 10-day contract if he had any interest in returning to the NBA. And with three roster spots available as Houston make a push towards the playoff, Allen’s game would be a perfect fit for Rockets.

Unfortunately for Morey, Allen’s chances of returning to the court are slim to none, though we are now learning that this isn’t the first time the two sides had a flirtation.

In an interview with Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today in 2016, Allen confirmed that during the summer of 2014, he and the Rockets nearly agreed to a deal following his two-year stint with the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, the near-perfect situation Allen was yearning for caused both parties to walk away from the deal.

Next to last year’s historic run, the 2014-2015 season was the closest the Rockets have been to winning a championship since 1997. Which brings an interesting hypothetical question: What if Allen had signed with the Rockets that summer? Could the addition of Jesus Shuttlesworth have been the missing piece to a championship title?

The answer is simple, yes.

When looking back on the 2014-15 Rockets, Houston established themselves as an elite championship contender behind MVP candidate James Harden and superstar big man Dwight Howard. Together, Harden and Howard helped the Rockets win 56 games, and they reached the Western Conference Finals, where they fell 4-1 to their arch nemesis, the Golden State Warriors.

Although Harden averaged a solid 28.4 points on 46.7 percent shooting from the field, the Warriors’ play on the defensive end made it a miserable series for Houston’s supporting cast. No one for the Rockets outside of The Beard averaged more than 15 points per game, with Josh Smith (yep, Smiff) as the second leading scorer with 14.8 points for the series.

However, if Allen was a part of the team in 2015, he could have been a solid contributor for the Rockets in this series. Of course, an older Allen would likely not have been the offensive force that made him a 10-time All-Star, but he managed to stay relevant during his twilight years as a top perimeter shooting threat for a few championship-contending teams.

At the time of his free agency, Allen was coming off a season where he helped the Heat advance to the NBA Finals, averaging nearly 10 points per game on 44.2 percent shooting from the field. And similar to his days in Miami, Allen could have been a key contributor off the bench, possibly averaging 12 to 15 points not playing behind the Heat’s Big Three. Allen’s play in Houston could have been enough to help the Rockets upset the 67-win Warriors in a seven-game series.

After all, two of Houston’s losses in that series came on a combined 5 points total, and the Harden and Howard combination were at their best when surrounded by good shooters. What better shooter to surround Houston’s duo with than Ray Allen?

Without a doubt, Allen would have been a significant piece to the Rockets in 2015. And in an event where Houston had advanced to the Finals, it is easy to see a path for the Rockets to have defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to capture their third title in team history.

Unfortunately, the vision of Ray Allen launching threes in Rockets Red next to James Harden and Dwight Howard is just another “what if” scenario in franchise history.