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Nets, Jarrett Allen

Editorials

Are the Nets About to Bury Jarrett Allen?

The Brooklyn Nets had one of, if not the best offseason in the entire NBA. They added two of the biggest stars in free agency: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They fortified their bench by adding a pair of sturdy veterans in Garrett Temple and Wilson Chandler, who add depth to a team hoping to contend. Both are commended not only for their still valuable ability on the court but their leadership and presence in a locker room as well. 

But their offseason didn’t end there. Along with Durant and Irving, in somewhat of a package deal, came DeAndre Jordan, on a four-year, $40 million deal. Not pocket change for a team that is now cap-strapped for the foreseeable future with restricted a pair of restricted free agents in Caris LeVert and Taurean Prince. LeVert could command near max money depending the season he has next year. Prince should be in line for a raise as well. 

Not only did the move not make sense from a financial standpoint, but from a fit point of view as well. The Nets have another young guy who will have to be paid in the 2021 offseason, but more importantly, that has a rather large role on the team. Jarrett Allen has been Brooklyn’s starting center through the first two seasons of his career, and many believe he has the potential to become one of the better centers in today’s league. 

Ironically enough, Allen’s greatest potential lies on the same end of the floor in which Jordan made his name. A two-time All-NBA Defensive Team awardee, Jordan was what Allen will soon become. Allen has already become perhaps the best shot-blocker in the league. Many have skied towards the rim in hopes of throwing down a dunk, and many have failed when trying to do so versus Allen. 

Just ask LeBron James

You could ask a bunch of other stars throughout the league as well.

He’s turned away some of the best players and dunkers in the game, a nearly impossible feat that he has surmounted with authority. Challenging shots at the rim is a fading quality among centers nowadays, whether it be because they are not as athletic or more likely because they do not want to end up on the wrong side of a highlight.

But Jarrett Allen is athletic enough, and cares not for ending up on Ball is Life.

His “gambles” to stuff shots usually ends up working, and in some of those cases, he’s ended up being on the right side of a highlight. His rim protection ability allows the rest of the defense to gamble if they so choose, because if they fail, Allen is standing in front of the rim ready to alter any attempt near the hoop. He averaged 1.5 blocks in just 26.5 minutes per game, but PER 48 minutes, he swatted 2.8 shots, placing him fourth in the league behind only Rudy Gobert, Brook Lopez, and Myles Turner

On offense, Allen’s game is far from complete, but at 20 years old, who would expect it to be? He averaged 10.9 points per game last season on 59% shooting from the field. The majority of his offense came from rim-running, offensive rebounding, and deep positioning down low.

An offense is not going to run a slew of sets to set Allen up to score, especially not one that just added two of the best pure scorers in the game, but as Allen continues to round out his offensive arsenal, he’ll be a very useful and efficient extra option. He even attempted 0.6 3-point attempts per game last season, a hint that he’s working to become a threat from outside the paint on offense. 

But Allen may be confounded to a bench role after the edition of Jordan. Allen is rather clearly the better player now, both due to his development and Jordan’s aging. However, Jordan got paid starting level money and for four years. Not only do many bench players not make $10 million annually, but they don’t sign four-year contracts either. Jordan has started every game he has appeared in since the 2011-2012 season. He has started in 707 of the 819 games he has played in his career. 

The Nets even had Jarrett Allen, a third-year player, participate in Summer League. Not only is that very rare for third-year players, but it’s nearly unheard of for third-year players who have been a starter for their respective team. He responded by making the 2019 NBA Summer League First Team. He averaged 16.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game in just 26.6 minutes per game. He dominated against fringe NBA big men. He clearly was too good to be playing there, but the Nets had him play anyways. It’s also customary that first-round picks, whether they be rookies, second, or in this case, third-year players, are rested for at least one game throughout the tournament. Allen, however, played all six games that the Nets participated in. That means the Nets aren’t as confident in Allen as it was perceived they were. 

There are still aspects of his game that Jordan does well. He is still a fantastic rebounder, averaging 13.1 per game last year. He’s not the league-leading field goal percentage scorer he once was, but still is efficient finishing at the rim with a mark of 64.1%. He’s improved drastically as a free throw shooter, rising from 48.2% in the 2016-2017 season to 70.5% last year. 

But his defensive decline has been swift. He’s no longer a premier shot blocker or quick enough to at least hold his own when switched onto guards. He posted his lowest win shares since the 2012-2013 season. 

Yet he is too well respected throughout the league for him to not be the favorite to start, considering the other factors previously mentioned. Maybe Jordan can thrive in a low usage role, Jordan can still thrive as a garbage point specialist and rebounder, but Allen provides so much more variety on the court and will still grow. Especially with Durant out for likely the whole season, the Nets will need more overall talent on the court. Jarrett Allen overrides him there. 

This is a rather big decision that the Nets are going to have to make. And while it seems like an obvious decision, it also looks like the wrong one is going to be made.