Brooklyn Nets: Jarrett Allen-DeAndre Jordan doesn’t have to be either/or

Brooklyn Nets Jarrett Allen DeAndre Jordan (Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Jarrett Allen DeAndre Jordan (Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

While a burning question with the Brooklyn Nets offseason is whether it will be Jarrett Allen or DeAndre Jordan starting, the answer could be both.

From the moment free agent center DeAndre Jordan committed Sunday night to a four-year, $40 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets, the question has been flying around the Nets’ fan base: Will the starting center be Jordan or incumbent Jarrett Allen?

Allen has been the Brooklyn starter in the middle for the last season-plus, starting the final 31 games of his rookie season in 2017-18 before starting all 80 games in which he appeared last season (he missed two games in mid-November with an illness).

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Jordan, meanwhile, has been a full-time starter for three different teams for the last nine seasons. The last time the three-time All-NBA center came off the bench was April 6, 2011, for the Los Angeles Clippers and he has started the last 619 consecutive games in which he’s played.

The pair is separated by almost 10 years in age. Jordan, an 11-year veteran, turns 31 on July 21. Allen, who has two seasons under his belt, turned 21 on April 21.

Besides each being a Texas native and each being 6-foot-11, Allen and Jordan have very few similarities.

Jordan, at 265 pounds, is a defensive presence and a rebounder extraordinaire who twice has been named to the All-Defensive first team, most recently in 2015-16, and has finished in the top three in the NBA in rebounding each of the last six seasons.

Jordan was third in the league, averaging 13.1 boards a game, last season with the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks and led the league in rebounding in both 2013-14 and 2014-15 while with the Clippers.

Allen hasn’t cracked the NBA leaderboard in rebounding in his two seasons, but his average did climb from 5.4 boards per game in 2017-18 to 8.4 last season, with an increase in rebounds per 36 minutes from 9.7 to 11.5.

The organization is still very high on Allen, who has bulked up from last season from 237 to 246 pounds, according to the team’s Summer League roster.

Teammate Spencer Dinwiddie told Michael Scotto of The Athletic on Friday while watching Brooklyn’s NBA Summer League opener in Las Vegas that he believes Allen is a future All-Star.

Allen played 29 minutes against the Mavericks in Brooklyn’s 96-92 loss Friday night, finishing with a team-high 19 points to go with eight rebounds and three blocked shots, while going 8-for-12 from the floor.

But he misfired on both of his 3-point attempts after going just 6-for-45 from deep last season (13.3).

Jordan is most assuredly not a deep threat. While he is the NBA’s all-time leader in field goal percentage at 67.0 percent, he has averaged one 3-point attempt per season in his career, going 1-for-11.

In his career, 82.9 percent of Jordan’s 3,146 field-goal attempts have come from inside the restricted area (zero to three feet from the rim).

The hyper-intelligent Allen is very aware of the talk surrounding the proposed addition of Jordan and made his desires known to Scotto on Friday.

Last season, coach Kenny Atkinson was reluctant — extremely reluctant, in fact — to pair Allen with Brooklyn’s other big, Ed Davis, as neither was an effective floor stretcher.

How reluctant was Atkinson to pairing Davis with Allen? While Allen logged 2,096 minutes in his 80 games, all as a starter, and Davis played 1,446 minutes over 81 games, making his lone start in one of the two games Allen was sidelined, they played together for less than a minute last season.

Neither Allen nor Jordan will demand the ball much — Atkinson won’t have to run set specifically designed for either.

Allen ran the sixth-most plays in the NBA as a roll man out of the pick-and-roll, 294, and led the NBA by operating as the roll man on 36.8 percent of the possessions during which he was on the floor, averaging 1.17 points per possession.

That was the third-highest rate of any of the players in the top 10 in roll man usage, trailing only Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz (1.35 PPP) and Montrezl Harrell of the Clippers (1.31 PPP).

In 50 games with the Mavericks, Jordan was the roll man 119 times — a 22.5 percent frequency rate — and scored 1.35 points per possession. In 19 games with New York, Jordan was the roll man 36 rimes, with a frequency of 18.5 percent and a conversion rate of 1.33 PPP.

So both are very effective and efficient in the pick-and-roll, a staple of Atkinson’s offensive system.

Brooklyn ran the fifth-most pick-and-roll sets in the NBA last season, averaging 23.7 per game — running P&R for the ball handler 20.6 percent of their possessions and converting at a 0.89 PPP rate for the ball handler and going to the roll man 6.6 percent of the time at a 1.05 PPP rate.

The 618 possessions where the roll man was featured was the seventh-most in the league.

Why teaming Jordan with Allen is viable

The more effective Jarrett Allen becomes with stretching his shooting range, the more likely it becomes that coach Kenny Atkinson could choose to pair him with DeAndre Jordan.

Atkinson likes floor spacing and values it perhaps more than any other factor when assembling his five-man units.

But in the small-ball era of the NBA, something different has happened this offseason as several teams are putting together rosters with while they will be living large … literally.

The Philadelphia 76ers got a commitment from Al Horford as a free agent and have designs on playing him as a super-sized stretch 4 alongside All-NBA center Joel Embiid.

Embiid is 7-feet and 250 pounds and physically dominated Allen during Philadelphia’s first-round series against the Nets, something that was exacerbated when Ed Davis went down with a sprained ankle in Game 1 and was limited in Games 2 and 3 and unavailable in Games 4 and 5.

It’s not a coincidence the 76ers won all four of those games after dropping the opener, a game in which Davis did most of the heavy defensive lifting against Embiid, who was just 5-for-15 from the floor.

Embiid shot 55.8 percent the rest of the series (29-for-52), sitting out Game 3 because of a sore left knee that plagued him throughout the series.

But Horford is 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds and is capable of playing the 4 — he has done so regularly during his career, logging an estimated 17 percent of his career minutes at the power forward slot, including a career-high 43 percent of his 2,277 minutes with the Boston Celtics in 2017-18.

Horford can stretch the floor, taking an average of 3.2 3-pointers per game and hitting 37.1 percent of those attempts over the last four seasons.

Jordan is bigger and less mobile than Allen, but would be able to better physically match up with Embiid. Allen is more athletic and has demonstrated his quickness afoot as a decent defender against guards and wings when switched to them defending pick-and-roll plays.

So it’s not a stretch — pun semi-intended — to see Allen as a player who could defend perimeter bigs while Jordan takes on the dirty work against opposing 5s inside.

Philadelphia’s new duo isn’t the only super-sized combo that has emerged in the Eastern Conference, however.

The Chicago Bulls will likely start 6-foot-11 Wendell Carter Jr. and 7-foot Lauri Markkanen. The Detroit Pistons have 6-foot-11 Andre Drummond and 6-foot-10 Blake Griffin.

The Indiana Pacers may experiment with more sets teaming their 6-foot-11 tandem of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis after letting Thaddeus Young go.

The Milwaukee Bucks have a pair of Lopezes now — Brook Lopez and twin brother Robin Lopez, both 7-feet — to team with 6-foot-11 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The young Atlanta Hawks had some success teaming 7-foot-1 reclamation project Alex Len with rising star John Collins, a 6-foot-10 presence on the glass and beyond the arc at the 4.

There are big duos emerging in the Western Conference, as well.

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So the more adept Allen gets at stretching his range, the more likely it is that the answer to the DeAndre Jordan/Jarrett Allen question for the Brooklyn Nets becomes “and,” as opposed to “either/or,” particularly with superstar forward Kevin Durant likely sidelined for the entire 2019-20 season recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon.