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Grayson Allen is for real

Believe it.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

It’s extremely difficult to shake a reputation. When I think of this statement, a hilariously sad image of former NBA player Brandon Knight comes to mind (or at least I thought he was out of the league; it turns out that he’s managed to hang on to a roster spot with the Cleveland Cavaliers). In the early part of his career, the former 8th pick in the 2011 NBA draft proved to be a clearly talented point guard, showcasing tantalizing potential as a three-level scorer and playmaker. His best statistical season came during his third year in the league when he averaged 17.9 points and 4.9 assists per game.

Yet there’s a reason why more casual NBA fans may not even know who he is and why people like me may have forgotten that he’s even in the league. To put it bluntly, he’s the NBA-equivalent of a cartoon character, whose comically absurd misfortunes can only seem to exist because of a cruel and unmerciful basketball god. Whether it was being dunked so hard into the earth by DeAndre Jordan that he may have killed the ghosts of the dinosaurs or missing a point-blank wide-open layup that would have given his team the win, he appears to be the unluckiest player in NBA history.

Unfortunately for him, that reputation has come to define his NBA career far more than his impressive talent ever has. And he has played on six teams in seven years as a result.

Whether it’s deserved or not, a poor reputation can significantly harm your career, whether that is in the NBA or the world as a whole. And for a time shortly after the Memphis Grizzlies traded for him, it appeared that Grayson Allen’s poor reputation may end his NBA career before it even really began.

Of course, Allen’s history as a, ahem, tenacious competitor is well-documented from his time at Duke to his scuffle with Grant Williams in summer league over five months ago, and there’s no real need to keep rehashing it.

Yet there was a point shortly after that particular scuffle in which many, including myself, wondered if Allen would ever be cut out to be an NBA player, mainly because of his red-hot temper and lack of self-control. That’s not even to mention the fact that his performance as a rookie was relatively lackluster, as he shot a poor 37% from the field and a meager 32% from three.

However, the Memphis Grizzlies front office never openly wavered in their support of Grayson Allen, and it has finally begun to pay dividends this year.

To be sure, Allen clearly struggled to start this year as he struggled to acclimate to a new roster and new system. His shots were not falling from any area on the court, and his minutes were inconsistent night-to-night. He only averaged 4.3 points per game while shooting 27% from the field and 22% from three while only playing 13.3 minutes in the month of November. Missing ten games because of a right ankle sprain certainly did not help matters for him.

But with increased opportunity, Allen has started to look more and more like the player that many thought he could be coming out of Duke. Over his last five games, he has seen his minutes increase to just under 24 per game. During that span, he has averaged 11.8 PPG while shooting a superb 59% from the field and 52% from three on 3.4 attempts per game from beyond the arc. His confidence in all facets of the game is on an entirely different level right now.

His impact also goes beyond just the box score. Even when his shots aren’t falling, he finds different ways to impact the game. He’s an effective driver of the basketball and can get to the rim with relative ease, creating opportunities for shooters when the defense begins to collapse. As a result, he’s second on the team in secondary assists, even though his normal assists numbers are relatively mediocre. He’s also a capable and willing defender who ranks in the 83rd percentile for pick-and-roll defense.

Perhaps most importantly of all, he has not had any incidents where anyone could question his self-control or his sportsmanship. By all accounts, he has been a model of professionalism and a great teammate for a young roster that needs as many role models and high-character players as it can get.

Now, like I said last week, a short stretch of solid performances from a young prospect doesn’t necessarily mean that much in the grand scheme of things. From Andrew Harrison to Wayne Selden, the Grizzlies have had many young players in recent years that played well for short stretches of time only to make like what I thought was Brandon Knight and flame out of the league in a year or two.

However, Grayson Allen has still shown so far this year that your reputation does not have to define you, no matter how toxic or negative it might be. He has blocked out all of the external noise and has been an asset for the Memphis Grizzlies not only as a growing and improving player that could be a part of their long-term core, but also simply as a person.

The Memphis Grizzlies believe in Grayson Allen. And I think the time has come where we do so as well.

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