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Barring something crazy, when Jarrett Allen is introduced as the Wine & Gold’s starting center on October 20 in Memphis, he’ll be the team’s sixth different opening day staring center since 2014-15 – joining Andre Drummond, Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mozgov, Kevin Love and Allen’s surprise teammate from late last season, the Wild Thing – Anderson Varejao.
The Cavaliers hope the fifth-year man is the end of that trend.
This will be Allen’s first opening day start, but doesn’t it feel like he’s been a Cavalier all along? He fit in seamlessly when he arrived in January, he’s similar to the previously mentioned centers in that he’s a genuinely likeable guy, and this summer his signing seemed like the offseason’s biggest no-brainer.
The biggest no-brainer of last year’s regular season was acquiring him in the first place – jumping headlong into the James Harden deal landed the Beard in Brooklyn and Caris LeVert in Indiana – sending Dante Exum and an unprotected 2022 first rounder (via Milwaukee) to Houston and a 2024 second rounder to the Nets in exchange for Allen and forward Taurean Prince.
(After a solid run with Cleveland before an ankle injury sidelined him for the final 14 games, the Cavaliers dealt Prince to the Timberwolves for veteran guard Ricky Rubio over the summer.)
The Wine & Gold knew Allen was a keeper right from the start.
The Cavaliers beat his former team in his first two games with the team and his presence quickly made Drummond expendable. A concussion suffered in late March against the Lakers sidelined him for eight games, but he finished the season strong – netting double-digit boards in his last three games and wrapped up his fourth full season averaging a double-double (12.8ppg, 10.0rpg).
Only Washington’s Robin Lopez finished with a better shooting percentage than Allen’s .618 in the Eastern Conference. And his 1.39 blocks per game led the Cavaliers last season.
But as much as all that, Allen provides something they haven’t had in quite some time: stability in the middle.
The Cavaliers inked the 23-year-old seven-footer to keep him in the middle for the foreseeable future – a proven commodity, solid on both ends of the floor, a quiet, intelligent leader with all the intangibles.
The self-professed “nerd” from Austin, TX is already beloved by teammates, coaches, staff and the media. He’ll have a couple new running mates in the frontcourt and a full house in Cleveland to get his motor running.
Life is good for Jarrett Allen. And that means good things for the Cavaliers.
The good-natured Allen laughed about how he found out he’d been traded to Cleveland, driving through Manhattan on his way to face the Knicks. And it didn’t take him long to face off against his former team.
Two nights after arriving, Allen finished with 12 points, 14 boards and four blocks in his Cavs debut – a thrilling double-overtime win over his former squad. He was just as good the following night, going for 19 points at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse against Steve Nash’s squad.
Other than the eight games missed in early-April, the former Longhorn appeared in an even 50 games with Cleveland – being inserted in the starting lineup in a Valentine’s Day matchup against the Clippers and remaining there the rest of the way. Overall, Allen averaged 13.3 points on .615 shooting, 9.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in a Cavs uniform.
With both Brooklyn and Cleveland, Allen’s .623 field goal percentage ranked 5th in the league. Averaging 1.44 blocks per put him in the league’s top 10, and his rebounding mark – 10.0rpg – placed him 13th in the NBA and marked his first season averaging a double-double.
The 22nd pick in the 2017 Draft also had some huge nights with Cleveland this season – including in his first game as a starter against Minnesota on February 1 – finishing with 23 points on 7-of-9 shooting, adding 18 boards and five blocks.
In a matchup against Denver later that month, Allen became the first Cavalier since Tristan Thompson in 2014 to finish with at least 20 points and 10 boards while shooting over 89 percent from the floor. The following game, he was somehow even more efficient, drilling all 11 field goals attempts to net a then-career-high 26 points (while also leading both teams with 17 boards) in a home defeat to OKC.
After a 5-for-11 night in his next game, Allen went 10-for-11 from the floor – tying his career-high with 26 points to go with 18 boards in a home win over Houston.
Allen turned in 17 double-doubles during his excellent introductory campaign in Cleveland, doubling up on a career-best six straight occasions in mid-February.
On the defensive end, he also became the first Cavalier since Zydrunas Ilgauskas to record at least four blocks in back-to-back contests.
3 … Players in the last 30 years – Dikembe Mutombo, Dwight Howard and Jarrett Allen – to finish with at least 25 points and 15 boards while shooting 100 percent from the floor, something the fourth-year man accomplished against the Thunder at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on February 21 this past season.
Over a four-game span that week, Allen – who also tallied three blocked shots and two assists in that meeting against OKC – shot 81 percent from the floor, averaged 21.3 points per and even drilled both three-pointer he attempted.
This summer, the Cavaliers locked up their prized seven-footer from a season ago – and added a couple more for good measure. One, 20-year-old Evan Mobley, was the 3rd overall pick of this last draft. The other, 24-year-old Lauri Markkanen, was drafted 15 spots ahead of Allen back in 2017.
The Cavaliers know what they have in Allen, and in the immortal words of Nick Gilbert: What’s not to like? He’s young yet experienced, a true seven-foot rim protector who’s rock-solid offensively. He’s extremely intelligent and coachable. He should pair up very nicely alongside Mobley on both ends as well, handling some of the tougher assignments while the young gun develops.
Off the floor, he’s a great young man with an infectious smile who knows his best basketball is in front of him.
It’s been a while since the Cavs have had true stability for the future at the center spot. Jarrett Allen is now their man in the middle.