Brooklyn Nets: Jarrett Allen’s ascent shows flaws in talent evaluation

Brooklyn Nets Jarrett Allen (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Blizzard Entertainment )
Brooklyn Nets Jarrett Allen (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Blizzard Entertainment ) /

Brooklyn Nets center Jarrett Allen is more than a basketball player and that fullness of life wound up undercutting his value in the eyes of evaluators.

Jarrett Allen, the second-year center for the Brooklyn Nets, is not the stereotypical young basketball player.

The 20-year-old son of a former professional basketball player didn’t follow the beaten path to the NBA, to be sure. Growing up in suburban Dallas, Allen is much more math and science geek than prototypical jock.

Allen was featured in a profile in The New York Times this week (a rare acknowledgement by the paper of record that there is, in fact, a second NBA franchise in New York) and the story was as much about the young man off the court as it was the player on it.

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Allen’s father, Leonard Allen, played collegiately at San Diego State in the early 1980s and was selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1985 NBA Draft. He played professionally in Spain before coming back to the U.S. to begin a career in the personal computing industry with Dell.

Jarrett Allen didn’t come up through the ubiquitous AAU system as so many of the young American players in the NBA have done.

He played recreational ball, for fun (gasp!), but still emerged as a top-15 recruit nationally while playing at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas. Allen played in the McDonald’s All-American Game and committed to play at the University of Texas.

His path was normalizing.

But he was still more than just a basketball player. In high school, he built his own computer — one he still uses today. When he sponsored a Thanksgiving shopping spree for 25 Brooklyn kids, each was given their own Jarrett Allen signature … calculator.

Not shoes. Not clothes. Jarrett Allen gave out signature calculators.

As he told the Times:

"“Math is the future.”"

Like many NBA players (and most kids his age), he’s into gaming. But sports games aren’t on the agenda.

"“I don’t play sports video games. My whole life revolves around sports.”"

He declared for the NBA Draft after his freshman year at Texas, taking the one-and-done path to the NBA, and that’s when the questions began to buzz in the background.

Questions from evaluators about Allen’s commitment to the game, his love of the game. Because, you know, his life involved things other than bouncing a basketball.

Many teams talk a good game about wanting players with character, well-rounded individuals who can contribute to communities and all the other platitudes.

The reality is that most of them want a player who lives in the gym and is smart enough not to get into trouble when he ventures out from that cave. The end.

Allen wound up falling to the Brooklyn Nets at No. 22 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft and his progress from low first-round pick to NBA regular has been a quick one.

He assumed the starting center job for the Nets in late January from Tyler Zeller, who was traded about a week later to the Milwaukee Bucks.

He was inconsistent, as rookies are wont to be, but averaged 10.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 23.8 minutes per game in 31 games as a starter

Overall in 72 games as a rookie, Allen put up 8.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 20.0 minutes per game, while shooting .589/5-for-15/.776. His 88 blocks led NBA rookies last season.

He worked on his strength over the summer and tried to add a corner 3 — with mixed results. He went 2-for-3 from long range in the opener against the Detroit Pistons, but is 0-for-12 since.

Working with veteran backup Ed Davis, Allen has learned some of the tricks of the trade and has become a better rebounder, in particular. His rebounding numbers are up three per game overall and an impressive 1.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, showing it’s not just a factor of increase minutes.

Allen is averaging 12.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 27.4 minutes, shooting .586/.2-for-15/.676 and is considered along with Caris LeVert one of the foundation pieces of the Brooklyn rebuild.

Teammate Spencer Dinwiddie, his best friend on the team, said Allen is definitely a franchise-caliber center.

"“He has everything you want. He’s athletic, he can run the floor, space the floor vertically, shoot, finish with both hands and protect the rim.“Right now, the only thing you can knock him for is not being physically imposing, but he’s only 20 years old and all of that is going to come with time. If that’s all you’re missing in your game, you’re doing really well.”"

And Allen hasn’t been swallowed up by the New York scene. He usually walks home from games, about 25 minutes, doesn’t own a car and his big spending splurge, he said, was a part for his computer.

His improvement shows he’s worked hard. His involvement with the Nets to work on charitable projects shows he’s committed to the community.

As for all of those pesky outside interests? Those just show he’s a well-rounded individual with more to offer than just a nasty dunk and owning real estate inside the head of Blake Griffin.

Next. 10 best seasons in franchise history. dark

At least the Nets were smart enough to see that.