Grayson Allen was the “young prospect” acquired in the Mike Conley trade last offseason. After a very successful, and somewhat controversial 4-year career at Duke, Allen spent his rookie season with the Jazz where he appeared in just 38 games in limited minutes.
Allen proved himself to be a solid scorer and shooter at Duke, and proved that when given opportunities for that Jazz. Allen wrapped up his regular season as a rookie with a 40-point, 7 rebound performance while shooting 5-13 from beyond the arc in an OT loss against the Clippers in the season finale. It was likely performances like this, and some standout performances with the Jazz G-League affiliate Salt Lake City Stars, that made Allen a Grizzlies target as Mike Conley trade negotiations went on last offseason.
As a 25 year old prospect, Allen probably is who he is as an NBA player but in just two seasons he’s proven to be a solid shooter and secondary facilitator. In a shooter’s league, Allen’s 3-point shot will likely help him have a relatively lengthy career, but will most of that come with the Memphis Grizzlies?
Grayson had a pretty weird first year with the Grizzlies last season. In 38 games, Allen averaged 8.7 points and shot 40% from beyond the arc. Allen’s season began with pretty limited minutes in October and November. Allen blew up a little bit in December where he scored double digits in 6 of 11 games while shooting nearly 50% from beyond the arc in those 11 games. Allen’s role was limited in January before he eventually hurt his hip in a late January game against the Pistons. The injury would’ve been season-ending had it not been for COVID-19 and the NBA restart in Orlando. The extra time off helped Allen get healthy enough to play in Orlando where he really took off.
In the Orlando bubble, Allen averaged 13.6 points while shooting 48% from beyond the arc. With Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson Jr. out with injuries, plus De’Anthony Melton’s offensive struggles, Allen stepped up when the Grizzlies desperately needed scoring from the perimeter.
The biggest downside to Allen’s first year in Memphis was that he picked up a few injuries throughout the year. Allen had the serious hip injury in January, and also missed 15 games in November and December with ankle injuries. Allen will need to have a healthier second season to stay in the Grizzlies rotation.
Allen is currently in a battle with De’Anthony Melton to be the starting shooting guard to start the 2020-2021 season. This is largely due to Justise Winslow & Jaren Jackson Jr. still recovering from the injuries they picked up in Orlando. The winner between Allen and Melton will likely have a leg up on the other for minutes, once Winslow and JJJ get healthy and Dillon Brooks moves back to the starting shooting guard instead of being the starting small forward.
Regardless of if he is starting or not, Allen figures to at least have a spot in the rotation due to his 3-point shooting. Things will certainly get interesting though once the Grizzlies are fully healthy as there are only so many minutes to go around between Allen, Brooks, Melton and Grizzlies first-round pick Desmond Bane. Each player has their signature trait, but Jenkins’ rotation may be performance based and change game-by-game depending on who has the hot hand.
Allen will have a pretty prominent role to start the season, but he’ll need to play well if he wants to keep getting minutes as the season progresses.
Season Best Case Scenario
The best case scenario would be that Allen’s play in the Orlando bubble transfers over to this season. It’s probably unrealistic for Allen to shoot 48% again from beyond the arc, but if he can keep that percentage above 40%, it will be hard for Jenkins to not play him. Whether it’s with the starters or the bench unit, Allen being a prolific 3-point shooter would certainly help out the Grizzlies offense.
Hoping for a completely healthy season, with such a short offseason, is a little unrealistic but if Grayson can play in about 60+ games that would be a good sign that he won’t be labeled as “injury prone”.
With minutes at the shooting guard position limited, it would be an added bonus if Grayson gets some action at small forward and can hold his own in smaller lineups. Jenkins experimented with smaller lineups in the preseason but it remains TBD to see if he’ll continue with that once the regular season tips off.
Season Worst Case Scenario
The worst case scenario is pretty simple. If Allen’s shot falls off, and he can’t make 3’s at a consistent clip, then he’ll fall out of the rotation by the time Winslow and JJJ are healthy. Allen is fine at other things, but if his shot isn’t falling he becomes much less valuable for the Grizzlies. A major injury to a slumping Allen would be brutal for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have already picked up Allen’s option for next season, but it would be tough to find minutes for him — should he struggle and get hurt this season.
With a glut of guards, the Grizzlies may very well look to make some moves next offseason to free up some rotation minutes. If Allen struggles and is hurt, his trade value will tank and the Grizzlies will have to hold onto him and potentially move someone else instead.
Expectations shouldn’t be particularly high for Allen coming into his second year in Memphis. Grizzlies fans should expect Allen to continue shooting the 3-pointer at a consistently high rate, even if it is a little lower than his Orlando averages. With a larger role to start the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a slight increase in Allen’s assist numbers, whether he’s playing with the starters or the Grizzlies super efficient bench unit.
I think most Grizzlies fans can expect Allen to be a solid shooter for the Grizzlies with the opportunity for some breakout games, as well as a few duds. I’m personally not too concerned with Allen’s injury history, as the ankle injuries were fairly minor and the hip injury was a freak injury.
Regardless of what you expect, Allen will be one of the Grizzlies more interesting players next season.