Draft Hopeful Allen Details Tatum’s Duke Development

WALTHAM, Mass. - Jayson Tatum’s one-year maturation from an average 3-point shooter in college to an elite 3-point shooter in the NBA shocked much of the basketball world. However, to Tatum’s former Duke teammate and 2018 Draft hopeful Grayson Allen, the rapid evolution came as no surprise.

Allen, a four-year Blue Devils shooting guard, worked out for Tatum’s Boston Celtics Friday morning and revealed that his former teammate showed signs of great progression all throughout his freshman season at Duke one year ago. That progression was on full display during Tatum’s rookie campaign, as he went from a 34.2 percent shooter beyond the college 3-point arc to a 43.4 percent shooter beyond the NBA 3-point arc, just like that.

“It was developing while he was at Duke,” Allen said of Tatum’s shot, following a grueling pre-draft workout with the C’s. “He’s such a great scorer. He came into Duke as such a great scorer, and he just wanted to get to all that stuff that he has (now). I think at Duke he learned to slow down a little bit, make quicker decisions.”

Tatum’s coaches and teammates at Duke encouraged him to simplify his shooting game at times. Allen and others told him, “We know you can cross guys over and shoot fadeaways and knock it down most of the time. But catch-and-shoot is easy too.”

“And I think he learned to do that at Duke,” Allen told Boston media members Friday morning. “And then once he got to the league, he was able to put all of that together.”

Right from the time Allen first competed against Tatum, he knew the kid was destined for greatness. Allen was entering his junior season as the Blue Devils' captain when he first saw the then-18-year-old live in action.

“When he first came into Duke in the summer when we were playing small games like 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-3, he would kill people,” Allen recalled from the offseason before his junior campaign. “And if he gets in space and that jump shot starts going down, it’s like he’s taking the shots you want him to take and it’s going in.”

Throughout the 2017 Blue Devils season, Tatum displayed a unique blend of skill, athleticism and versatility that Allen believed was perfectly suited for the NBA’s style of play.

Sure enough, he was right.

“Once he got to the league, the floor opened up for him,” said Allen. “He got more space, he got to do all that stuff he has in his game, get into his bag a little bit. I knew he was going to perform really well. Maybe not this soon. But I knew he was going to do really well.”

Now, it’s Allen’s turn to show NBA teams what he can do at the professional level. He’s been working out for NBA franchises throughout the month of June, and Friday was his opportunity to prove his worth to the Celtics’ brass.

Allen put up career numbers of 14.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, all while shooting 38.0 percent from 3-point range during his four-year stint in the NCAA. While many players of his skill level would have likely declared for the Draft earlier, Allen believes he benefitted from a full four seasons at Duke considering the high-level learning environment he experienced under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“My basketball IQ improved so much just by playing for him,” said the 6-foot-4, 2015 NCAA champion. “I learned how to prepare like a pro, how to recover like a pro, how to live like a pro while at Duke. And I also think that I’m in a better spot to land and stick in the league. I think if I were to come out after my freshman or sophomore year, I would’ve been in a good spot, but I would’ve had to get lucky in a good situation. Right now, I think I’m in a place where I can handle a good situation, a bad situation, grinding through the G-League, anything. I can handle all of that and have a long-term career at this point.”

If he is available at pick No. 27, Allen could start his career with the Celtics, if they choose to draft him. And by now, the team is very familiar with his game.

“He’s a prospect we’ve seen so much of,” said Celtics Director of Player Personnel Austin Ainge. “Not only has he played well all four years, but has played with other really good players that we’ve been evaluating.”

Added Ainge, “He’s a great shooter, obviously. A great athlete and competitor. He won a lot of games, scored a lot of big baskets. He’s a good player.”

Nonetheless, there are many good players that the C’s are looking at to potentially take with their lone pick of the draft. Allen was one of six players to work out for the C’s Friday, competing with and against Louisville forward Deng Adel, Oklahoma State guard Jeffrey Carroll, Kansas forward Billy Preston, Arizona guard Allonzo Trier and Texas Christian guard Kenrich Williams.

Aside from that bunch, the Celtics have worked out roughly 50 other hopefuls. Ainge says the team has narrowed that list down to about 10 players whom could be potentially taken with the 27th overall pick.