It only required one season at Texas for Jarrett Allen to emerge into a legitimate NBA prospect. On Thursday evening, Allen will become the latest in a lengthy lineage of Longhorns to hear their name called during the NBA Draft, and if all goes as expected, he'll become the 16th Longhorn selected in the first round.
Like most prospect in the one-and-done age, Allen brings talent to the table, but also leaves much to be desired pending progression.
At this point in his progression, Allen is a 6’11, 235-pound piece of basketball clay with talent tapered towards today’s NBA. The glaring issue is that talent isn’t quite NBA-ready just yet, but Allen’s skill set is such that in the hands of the right coaching staff, he can be molded into a quality offensive option down the road.
As is, Allen should be able to find some offensive success right out of the gates as a rim runner. Some of Allen’s most impressive moments as a freshman in Austin came in transition, where he was often able to flash the athleticism his future coaching staff will aim to build around.
With tremendous length — Allen boasts a 7’5.5 wingspan and a 9’2.5 standing reach — and massive hands, paired with 35-inch vertical leap, Allen should prove to be a viable lob target, whether it be in transition or in a set offense.
To that end, there’s plenty to like about the potential of Allen’s ability in halfcourt settings, too.
In the post, Allen is a crafty and improving finisher around the basket. As a freshman, Allen displayed finesse, touch and body control beyond his years at times and that lifted him to a 68 percent success rate around the rim. With his back to the basket, although he’s not a bruiser, Allen utilizes impressive footwork and has considerably soft touch, most clearly evident with his sky hook from either hand.
Additionally, the same athleticism that allows Allen to excel in transition has made appearances in the halfcourt, as well. When given time to gather himself, Allen’s capable of making some incredible plays, such as this display versus West Virginia:
Texas freshman center Jarrett Allen had the dunk of the night pic.twitter.com/Nh61woOBSv— Shoot The Jay (@SportsManCave) February 21, 2017
While all of the aforementioned is notable, much of Allen’s potential success in the NBA will hinge on whether or not he’s able to expand his jump shot out towards the perimeter.
At this point, it’s a work in progress. At Texas, Allen connected on just 24-of-68 jumpers, but the mechanics, rotation and touch are all in place. It seems with time and repetition, Allen should evolve into a big man capable of thriving in today's NBA and stretching the floor.
Allen isn’t an elite rim protector, and he may never be, but he does have the potential and skill set to be a quality last line of defense.
In 33 games at Texas, Allen recorded 18 multiple-block games, which is an impressive effort considering he almost always played out of position as a power forward next to Shaquille Cleare or James Banks. While he may see time as a power forward every now and then in the NBA, Allen is a center and he’s being scouted as such. As Allen progresses and develops into a full-time role at center, he should, at the very least, become an above average rim protector.
Far more necessary in today’s pick-and-roll heavy NBA than Allen’s fortitude in the paint is how well he can defend multiple positions.
In pick-and-roll situations, Allen has shown that he can successfully hedge screens and when sticking with the ball handler, Allen’s footwork and athleticism prevent him from being on the wrong side of an immediate mismatch.
On the other hand, and it’s certainly a quality that can be developed, but Allen’s lateral quickness needs to be improved. Generally speaking, though, Allen should prove to be an effective defender throughout his NBA career around the rim and extended towards the perimeter.
Allen wrapped up his lone season in Austin on a clear upward ascension, especially offensively. After averaging just 10.6 points throughout Texas’ non-conference slate, Allen amped his offensive productivity up to 16.2 points per throughout in Big 12 play, but there’s still much work ahead.
We’ll start with the most obvious — Allen’s porous free throw shooting. Last season, Allen converted just 56.4 percent of his 149 attempts, leaving 65 points at the charity stripe. He has, and likely will continue to leave plenty of points in the paint throughout the first few season of his career, as well.
At this point, Allen’s face-up game is nothing to call home about. When he attacks the basket out of face-up situations, Allen’s underdeveloped awareness and basketball IQ is highlighted when he drives into congested lanes and often keeps the ball too low, which often points to another weakness — Allen struggles to finish in traffic.
When his back is to the basket, Allen can’t yet be relied upon to make the correct and accurate pass to an open shooter and when he looks to score, he found little success at the college level backing defenders down. Until he gets stronger, Allen will likely get pushed off the block and forced to either pass back out, which he’s not great at, or attempt jumpers.
The vast majority of Allen’s struggles on the defensive and, at least early in his career, will stem from his strength and toughness, or lack thereof. Allen certainly has a frame that can be built upon, but that frame doesn’t yet come equipped with notable physicality, nor the toughness he must adopt to survive in a grown man’s league.
If he doesn’t improve upon said strength and toughness, Allen will fall victim to bullying on the block as he did at times when faced against physical post presences in college. Considering he’s not an elite rim protector just yet, despite his favorable length, that’s a recipe for a role on the bench, especially if he lands on a playoff team as expected.
Allen’s lack of strength also became apparent on the defensive board, which was only amplified by his inability to secure box outs at times. Consequently, Allen racked up just 6.9 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, which is a middle-of-the-road effort at best.
Speaking of effort, considering effort could help accommodate for some of Allen’s strength and toughness deficiencies, his motor and intensity level runs hot and cold. Simply put, Allen’s progression is far from the point where he can survive in the NBA without competing on a possession-to-possession basis.
That said, Allen’s engagement level did improve as the 2016-17 season progressed, but he’ll need to elevate that intensity to another level as he simply tries to find his way in the NBA. There were numerous times in college where Allen was the best player on the court at any given time, but that may never be the case going forward.
In a recent interview with the NBA Players Association, Allen was asked of how he’s been selling himself to NBA teams throughout this process.
“I’m telling people that I’m going to understand my role—that my first two, three years, I’m not going to be an offensive presence on the court. I’m going to have to get rebounds, block shots, alter shots, bring energy.”
Allen’s self evaluation is accurate, to say the least. He certainly has the tools to not only succeed in the NBA, but thrive, but those tools need to be sharpened and polished throughout the next few years.
Luckily for Allen, his current draft stock should result in a playoff team acquiring his services, which means he likely won’t be required to come in an become an immediate impact player.
Here’s a variety of Allen’s current projections:
NBA.com — No. 17 overall — Milwaukee Bucks
CBS Sports — No. 17 overall — Milwaukee Bucks
As seen above, Allen is widely considered a possible addition for the Milwaukee Bucks.
According to an analysis from Fox Sports Wisconsin, Allen length could make him a perfect fit.
“Allen would fit right into a lengthy Milwaukee lineup, what with his long wingspan and over 92-inch standing reach. He's a good defender who can block a shot, while his offensive game isn't limited to just around the basket. Allen's athleticism also works into his favor on a team which wouldn't mind getting in transition often.”
Regardless of where he lands, there’s reason for the burnt orange nation to feel optimistic about Allen’s future in the NBA. As the franchise that will expend its first round draft pick on the Austin native on Thursday are well aware of, though, he’s hardly much more than a 6’11, 235-pound piece of basketball clay at this point.
We’ll find out by tomorrow night which franchise is willing to mold him.