Jarrett Allen

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Lichtenstein: Nets Will Suffer Growing Pains As Allen Develops 

2nd-Year Center Still Has A Ways To Go

Steve Lichtenstein
July 13, 2018 - 12:52 pm
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Not much has been happening at the Nets Summer League experience in Las Vegas this week that is worthy of mention. Brooklyn has lost all four games, with one consolation game to go on Friday.

That’s why the game announcers have spent so much time on these broadcasts propping up the one player in a Nets uniform with a professional destiny -- sophomore center Jarrett Allen. They have raved on and on about Allen’s athleticism and potential. 

Nets management has been no less shy about throwing accolades in Allen’s direction at every opportunity, making it seem like he’s the key to the franchise’s future.

Brooklyn agreed to buy out future Hall of Fame center Dwight Howard last week after trading for him before the NBA draft partly because of Allen.

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“He’ll be a horrible influence on Allen," some in the media argued. “He’ll take playing time away from Allen.”

It’s all so unfair to the kid.

Allen just turned 20 in April. He’s had less than half a season of starting experience, on a lousy team at that. 

He needs to mature physically. With work, it should happen. Listed at 6-foot 11, he may still be growing.

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But first, can we just wait to see how Allen develops before making any more pronouncements? We can start by tempering the expectations for this coming season. 

Allen wasn’t that great last season. In his 22 games after the All-Star break, when he was firmly entrenched as the starter and the Nets faced a host of tankers, Allen averaged 9.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in about 24 minutes per game. He shot 59.7 percent from the floor and made 2-of-6 3-pointers.

Not bad.

Many of the Nets’ opposing centers, however, did much better. In this period, Howard went off on his 30/30 performance, while others, from Joel Embiid to Nikola Vucevic to Aron Baynes in the finale, put up monster numbers by feasting on the rookie.

The tendency is to focus on the few highlight reel plays Allen routinely makes in any given game. His jump and wingspan allow him to block or alter shots when it was assumed he was out of those plays. And he can dunk.

Still, everyone will tell you that Allen has much to learn about actually playing the game. He’ll overhelp, for instance, like Brook Lopez used to do so often, gifting easy putbacks to the men he should have been guarding. It’s one of the reasons why the Nets were a significantly better defensive rebounding team after the All-Star break when Allen was off the court, despite the palpable lack of size of his backups 

I haven’t seen anything in his two Summer League appearances (not that it would have meant anything if I did) that suggested, “Oh, he’s ready to make the leap now.”

Far from being dominant, Allen’s presence could not lift a very inept supporting cast. The Nets were actually worse when he was on the court verses off.

Allen’s hands still need work, as does his finishing touches. He was pushed around on many possessions during his 49 minutes on the court.

Sure, Allen posterized Rockets center Zhou Qi after driving to the rim from just past the midcourt line in Wednesday’s contest. But what about those times the much lesser-heralded Qi beat Allen off the dribble? Or Allen’s air-balled 2-footer?   

I get it -- it’s Summer League.

But this notion that he’s a lock to develop into even the next Clint Capella is way premature. At the end of last season, he was probably no better than 24th of 30 if one would rank the league’s best starting centers. June’s draft included four prospects who could possibly eclipse Allen this season. 

Allen comes across as intelligent -- he seems to know what is needed and that it can be a long process. 

The Nets will suffer during that process. They call it growing pains for a reason.

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.