Don't Overlook Jarrett Allen

While less heralded than other members of the 2017 NBA draft class, Jarrett Allen is quietly contributing on both ends of the floor, and is a key component of a young Brooklyn Nets team on the rise.

The NBA’s 2018-2019 season is in full swing, and the current class of sophomores is looking particularly impressive. A quick look around the league shows a bevy of second-year players contributing to their teams, from stars in the making such as Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, and De’Aaron Fox, to super-talented role players like OG Anunoby and Zach Collins. Fifteen players from the 2017 draft are averaging at least 20 minutes a game, which is impressive considering two members from the 2017-2018 NBA All-Rookie First and Second Teams have yet to play this season (Lauri Markkanen and John Collins).

It’s easy to overlook players in this sea of talent and not give them the appreciation they deserve. Jarrett Allen is one such player. Since being drafted 22nd overall in the 2017 NBA draft by the Brooklyn Nets, Allen has been an explosive rim runner, a defensive anchor, and has shown flashes of a three-point stroke. His continued growth as a player has him beginning to fit the mold of the coveted “three-and-D” modern big man - a center who can both protect the rim down low and step out to hit three-pointers. Here are some of the most promising elements in Allen's game so far.

Beast in the Paint

To begin with, Allen is shooting 61% from the field, which is good for fifth in the league among players averaging more than 25 minutes per game. Most of his offense happens in the paint, where he scores 7.3 of his 11.8 points per game. He’s currently converting these looks at 67.3%, which is good enough for eighth in the league among centers averaging at least 25 minutes per game. The vast majority of these shots are as a rim runner, where the Nets capitalize on his impressive mixture of strength and athleticism. Watch him dunk in the clip below. His head is almost level with the rim!

This strength and athleticism aren't limited to dunking. In the clip below, Allen has the strength to fight through a forearm shove by Nikola Jokic to snare an offensive rebound and slam the ball home.

As the season progresses, he’s shown an increased level of comfort in the pick-and-roll, especially with D’Angelo Russell. In the clip below, Allen reads the switch perfectly and slips by the defense for a wide open dunk.

The improving chemistry in the Allen/Russell tandem is certainly something to keep an eye on, especially with Russell's impending free agency (restricted free agent for 2019).

Expanding Within the Offense

Right now, the “three” in the "three-and-D" big man description remains mostly theoretical. Last year, Allen hit 33.3% of his three-point attempts (5-15), only three percent below league average. While this was definitely a small sample size, it gave a sample of what he can accomplish behind the arc. He showed early signs of prowess in the first game of the season, going 2-3 from three against Detroit. However, since then he’s all but abandoned shooting three-pointers, attempting only one in his last four games. On the year, he’s only hit 2 of 9 attempts, but he has a smooth, effortless stroke which bodes well for continued three-point prowess. Just look at the clip below.

With increased practice and reps, there is little reason to think his shooting percentages won’t increase. This is of particular importance for the Nets, as they currently lack big men with reliable three-point range.

Lock Down Defense

While Allen has been a productive offensive center, defense is his true calling card. He’s currently 16th in the NBA in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (the defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player on a league-average team) at +3.4. Among players with as many minutes, Allen jumps to ninth in the league. He’s increased his blocks per game from 1.2 in the 2017-2018 season to 1.9, which is good for ninth in the league. His 5.7% block percentage is 6th in the league among players with at least 25 minutes per game. I could go on and on with numbers, but I’ll let his play speak for itself. Watch as he inhales Blake Griffin’s dunk attempt earlier in the year. 

While Griffin has certainly lost a step over the years, he’s still an explosive dunker. Even with that explosiveness, Allen is able not only to block the shot, but also to corral it before he is pushed out of bounds by Griffin. Here are a few more blocks from that same game.

Each block shows off a different aspect of Allen’s defense. He blocks the first shot against Zaza Pachulia by staying strong in the paint, not getting pushed off the block, and positioning himself to prevent a good look at the rim. The second, against Luke Kennard, shows Allen’s defensive awareness to switch off his man to protect against an open shot at the rim. He then sticks with the play to block the follow-up attempt by Andre Drummond. The last block in the clip, against Griffin again, showcases Allen’s strength and leaping ability, which allowed him to stay with Griffin and deny him at the rim. For those counting at home, that’s four blocks in four different ways. Even more impressively, three out of the four blocks lead to his team getting the ball and starting a fast break. In a league where shot-blockers often spike the ball far out of bounds, the Tim Duncan-esque way Allen blocks the ball to his teammates allows the Nets to quickly turn defense into offense.

League Leader at the Rim

While his blocking prowess is undoubtedly impressive, the most impressive part of Allen’s game is his ability to prevent scoring at the rim. Among all centers averaging 25 minutes per game, Allen ranks first overall in defensive field goal percentage (the percentage of field goal attempts opponents make while the player is defending the rim) at 46.5%. If you consider that many NBA centers need years to develop and hone their defensive instincts and shot blocking skills, the fact that Allen tops the leaderboard as a sophomore is particularly impressive. He stands out even more when looking down the list. His DFG% is over two percentage points lower than the next closest player (JaVale McGee, at 48.8%), and more than 10 percentage points better than noted rim protectors like Anthony Davis, Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert, and Clint Capela. Allen’s effectiveness at preventing opponents from scoring at the rim is a huge reason the Nets are sitting at 14th in the league in points allowed per game, despite not having many plus-defenders on their roster.

Moving Forward

Jarrett Allen has secured his place a franchise cornerstone for the Brooklyn Nets. At the moment, he’s a star in the making -- a rim-running, shot-blocking stud who makes his team better on both sides of the ball. He has a high floor for a young player, with his ceiling tied to his outside shooting prowess. Don’t lose him in the crowd. If his three-point shot develops (spoiler alert: it will), this star in the making will be a bona fide star before you know it.

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