Grayson Allen proved people wrong this year.
Coming in as a Grizzly, most people considered him to be a throw-in in the Mike Conley trade. Many were concerned about his attitude and his antics from Duke. Granted, he didn’t make the case in the Summer League, but he proved this season that he can channel that fiery intensity into a healthier, more impactful grit on the court. He was also an afterthought because of his wavering production in Utah, and people questioned his standing in the league since he couldn’t crack the rotation as an older rookie. However, he powered through the early season struggles and proved he could be a useful NBA player that provides value as a floor-spacer, ball-mover, and competitive defender — despite physical limitations.
In 38 appearances, Grayson Allen finished the season averaging 8.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists, while shooting 46.6% from the field and 40.4% from 3 (3.7 attempts per game) in 18.9 minutes per game. He particularly shined in the NBA bubble, where he averaged 12.4 points while converting on 47.1% of his 3-point attempts (24-50).
Allen experienced a tough go this year, as he sat out for 15 games with ankle injuries and for 20 with a nasty hip injury. Prior to the league’s suspension, he was supposed to be out for the rest of his sophomore campaign, but because of the NBA bubble he got to showcase why he could be a good role player in this league.
At his Best
It’s not hard to pinpoint Grayson Allen at his best. It’s as a 3-point marksman.
This season, Allen scored 1.33 points per spot-up possession, ranking in the 97th percentile per Synergy, which was a better mark than fellow young, prolific shooters such as Tyler Herro, Landry Shamet, Duncan Robinson, and Kevin Huerter. He also scored 1.15 PPP off hand-off’s (88th percentile, 33 possessions).
In addition to his accuracy from 3, his shot selection is ideal for a role player in today’s league. Per Cleaning the Glass, 96% of his shots came within 14 feet (considered short mid-range) or from 3. He also converted on 66% of his attempts at the rim, ranking in the 77th percentile among guards. You want as many looks from 3 and in the paint, and as few long 2’s, as possible, and Allen made it an effort to focus on those shot attempts.
As the Grizzlies continue to build this system quarterbacked by Ja Morant and Tyus Jones, it’s imperative to find floor spacers to give them driving lanes for kick-outs, as well as secondary playmakers to get them off the ball. Thus far, Allen has fit the profile as a off-ball guard that can knock down spot-up jumpers and put the ball on the floor for chances in the paint.
Allen’s bubble games against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Utah Jazz (08/03 and 08/05), and his December 21st game against Sacramento were his 3 best performances of the season by game score. Against New Orleans, he scored a 17 points and connected on 5 of his 6 three-point attempts. Both marks were season-highs...until the very next game. Against Utah, he scored 20 points while going 6-8 from 3. His contest against Sacramento was one of his most complete offensive games, as he had 13 points on 5-8 shooting (3-5 from 3) and 3, showcasing his potential as a floor-spacer and secondary playmaker.
At his Worst
If Grayson Allen’s shot isn’t on, it’s not exactly pretty. He has been known to force the issue offensively. Though he grew more careful with the ball throughout the season, you can tell he was forcing things early in the season.
When his shot isn’t falling, he’s one of those rotation players who could see his minutes cut in the second half of games - something we’ve seen Taylor Jenkins do this season. His size and lateral quickness could hurt him as a shot creator and defender. Though his shot should permanently slot him into the rotation, those areas are concerns when he can’t get going offensively.
His season opener was shaky, as he couldn’t find his jumper and simply didn’t look up to speed with his perimeter matchups. He sent me into a paralysis on the home opener when Tyler Herro caught him in the spin cycle. In the October 29th game against the Lakers, he finished 4-14 from the field (1-6 from 3), with 4 turnovers and a +/- of -36. One of his worst game scores came against Minnesota in January, where he shot 1-4 from the field and was a -10 in only 6 minutes.
What comes next?
Before I answer the what comes next question, I’m going to take you through an exercise real quick.
- Player A - 18.9 minutes per game, 8.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, shooting line - 46.6/40.4/86.7. 12.0 PER, 60.9 TS%, 1.2 WS (0.8 OWS, 0.4 DWS), -1.3 BPM (-0.1 OBPM, -1.2 DBPM)
- Player B - 21.9 minutes per game, 8.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, shooting line - 42.5/38.5/71.4. 9.0 PER, 55.8 TS%, 0.8 WS (0.1 OWS, 0.6 DWS), -3.5 BPM (-2.6 OBPM, -0.9 DBPM)
- Player C - 17.4 minutes per game, 6.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, shooting line - 39.1/37.4/87.1. 9.9 PER, 56.2 TS%, 2.3 WS (0.8 OWS, 1.5 DWS), -1.0 BPM (-1.3 OBPM, -0.3 DBPM)
Player A was Grayson Allen this year, Player B was Joe Harris in his 3rd year (25 years old), and Player C was JJ Redick in his 3rd year (24 years old). Used 3rd year, since Redick and Harris weren’t rotation players in year 2.
What was the point of that? All 3 of these players were good 4-year college prospects that projected more as specialists, because of their physical limitations. And despite early struggles, the latter two players emerged as two of the most potent 3-point specialists in the league. Am I saying this is going to happen to Grayson Allen? No, but I’m using this to show that he’s at least worth investing in, because there’s evidence that he may not be done improving, even if they’re older prospects.
The Memphis Grizzlies will have Grayson Allen on his rookie scale contract until the end of the 2021-22 season if they pick up the team option in the final season. At this time, he fills a need quite well. The team desperately needs outside shooting, and he emerged as a sniper off the bench. Unless there’s a chance for a significant upgrade — imagine a situation similar to the Mike Conley to Utah package — there isn’t a real rush to deal him. He’s a cost-controlled asset that fills a need in a league where 3-point shooting is a premium. Why mess it up?
Allen’s critics will point to his stretch at the beginning of the year, while his biggest advocates will defend him with his bubble play. There is a middle ground, and running with the averages, it could be that 40% ballpark. If you’re only paying around $7M over two seasons for a 40% 3-point shooter in today’s league, that’s arguably a steal. Not to mention, he’s also shown the ability to be a secondary playmaker, pesky defender, and a careful decision-maker on offense.
This season, through adversity, Grayson Allen proved that he belongs in the NBA. His next step will be proving that he can be a consistent threat from 3. If that happens, Grayson Allen will have a nice NBA career.