Jarrett Allen took his game to new heights while playing on the NBA Campus in Orlando last summer, and the question is, what’s next?
As the Brooklyn Nets gather at HSS Training Center this week to start workouts for the 2020-21 season, it’s something even the 22-year-old center is working on sorting out. The Nets are bringing back Allen and veteran DeAndre Jordan at the 5, along with bouncy second-year big Nic Claxton. They’ve added veteran forward Jeff Green, who at 6-foot-8 began to slide into a small-ball center role with Houston last year. And then there’s the big one, the five-out lineup with Kevin Durant at the 5 that could be devastating offensively.
“At this point, anything is in the air,” said Allen. “I haven’t been told what is going to happen, I haven’t been told what’s not going to happen. So, what I have been told is just to get my work in, try to improve my game as much as possible and get ready for the season coming up.”
Over the summer, that center crowd was significantly thinner. With Jordan and Claxton unable to participate in Orlando, Allen was the lone center on the roster and played 33.7 minutes per game, nearly 10 more than his career average over his first three seasons. Two games before the season was suspended back in March, Allen had been moved out of the starting lineup for Jordan. Aside from a few Jordan starts early in the 2019-20 season, Allen had been the steady starter for two years.
He saw the season’s restart as an opportunity, and made the most of it. Over 10 games in Orlando, including the seeding round and playoffs, Allen averaged 13.7 points, 14.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists. The big finish helped fuel career highs of 11.1 points and 9.6 rebounds for the 2019-20 season, and he finished second in the NBA in field goal percentage at a 64.9 percent rate, another career high.
“Seeing JA down there being able to anchor the defense and talk as much as he did, watching the game and talking to him throughout the bubble, it was awesome,” said Jordan. “He really took on that role knowing that he was pretty much going to be the only big man down there that we had. But he took it like a pro. I’m glad that he did, he was successful down there, and I’m excited to see what effect it has on this upcoming season.”
“It raised my confidence playing against all starters like that, playing 42 minutes in the game sometimes, just having to run up and down and having a bigger role on my back,” said Allen. “So trying to bring that into next season, even if I don’t have that big of a role, just playing with that same aggression – that same mentality that I was playing with in the bubble.”
Allen looked more confident in the moment, particularly offensively when it came to operating with the ball on the perimeter, whether it came to putting it on the floor or dishing to teammates. Those 3.4 assists per game showed a new dimension, particularly his eight-assist game against the Kings.
“I would say I was getting the ball more,” said Allen. “I was flashing to the ball more, showing, presenting myself, trying to help when my teammates were stuck. I've been working on making those passes to the corner quite a bit because I know playing with Kyrie and Kevin (Durant) coming up I'm going to have to make those decisions quite a bit often."