Grayson Allen heeded the call Wednesday with the Utah Jazz missing half of its rotation and a matchup with the Phoenix Suns on the itinerary. Allen pulled through by posting new career-highs in both points (14) and rebounds (3) in Utah’s 118-97 win. He also arguably had his best shooting night of the year when considering the volume of shots he took (6 of 9 — Allen has three games with a 100 percent shooting mark but in none of those did he take more than three FGA).
So it turned out to be no wonder that in postgame interviews, head coach Quin Snyder and several of Allen’s teammates were asked about the performance of the rookie. Instead of praising the Duke product’s career night on the offensive end of the floor, the leaders of the Jazz both on and off the court lauded Allen’s defensive performance.
Grayson Allen scored a career-high 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and when asked about his performance Quin Snyder, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert each brought up Allen's defensive performance.— Jason Walker (@thejwalk67) April 4, 2019
“I think it was his best defensive game. He was chasing down the shooters and was able to recover and had the big block and after the block he got a contest on the three. That’s the kind of thing that I think are going to allow him to stay on the floor.”
“The best thing about (Allen’s performance) wasn’t even the offensive end it was the defense end. He shot efficient and had 14 points but he was chasing screens, contesting, had the block.”
“I thought he did a great job on the defensive end. He really threw himself into it, competed.”
This message echos the same one fans got when they asked how much Allen would play with Ricky Rubio, Mitchell, Dante Exum, Royce O’Neale, Raul Neto and Alec Burks ahead of him in the guard rotation.
“Right now his biggest adjustment is transition defense so he’s either going to make that adjustment or he’s not going to play. I hope he reads that,” Snyder said according to Eric Woodyard.
On Wednesday, Allen was going to get minutes whether he played defense or not (Snyder likely didn’t want to roll with a three-man guard rotation in an April game against the lowly Suns). However, playing good defense means that down the road (i.e. next season), Allen will have shown he at least can live up to Snyder’s standard on defense and thus have a better chance at seeing the floor more than he has this season.
There’s a lot of things Allen needs to improve upon to get more minutes besides defense. In his limited minutes, the rookie has put up very underwhelming shooting splits of 34.6/30.4/69.0. Even in the games where Allen has received more than a few minutes he’s still not performed well.
In games where Allen played 15 or more minutes, he’s averaging 8.5 points, 1.4 assists, 0.6 rebounds and 1.6 turnovers (in 19.8 minutes on average). And he’s still shooting around 35 percent overall and 30 percent from three in those games (technically 36.2 and 31.7) on 8.6 FGA per outing.
Luckily, Allen is a rookie and meaningful minutes, like he got against Phoenix, are going to help him overcome these early stumbling blocks.