It's not every day that a player goes out and scores 32 points in a game. It's not, as the kids would say, a phunkeeduck stroll through the park.
The Nuggets have only had one player score that many points in a game this season, when Danilo Gallinari scored 32 on Nov. 17 against the New Orleans Pelicans. In order to get to 30 points, the player either needs to be making a high percentage of shots or shooting on a high percentage of possessions. When Gallo scored 32, it took him 19 field goal attempts to crack the 30 point threshold, and he made five 3-pointers to help bump him up.
Grayson Allen, a 6-foot-4-inch sophomore guard with the Duke Blue Devils, just dropped 32 points against Georgetown, and he did it on 12 shots. It's the kind of performance that great players in NBA history are capable of - players like James Harden, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Johnson, Chauncey Billups. When Allen torced Georgetown at Madison Square Garden with a 96 percent effective field goal performance (9-12 FG, 5-6 3P), my interest went from "hey, he's pretty good," to ...
If you're not familiar with Allen, that's okay. He's a second-year guard with the Blue Devils, but with the star-studded roster they fielded last season, he wasn't part of the starting lineup. He began getting more play in conference play, and was a key part of the Blue Devils Final Four appearance. He was a spark off the bench against the Michigan State Spartans, and his performance against the Wisconsin Badgers teased us for the upcoming season.
Allen plays all-out. Opponents that underestimate him because of his appearance quickly realize their mistake. He's quick, able to get into the paint and finish with both hands. He can rise above defenders for layups, leap past outstretched arms to get an open angle for a shot off glass, or elevate in the paint to pull up before getting to the rim.
"How I play is 150 percent, going all out, going crazy. When I'm playing timid and afraid to make a mistake, then I'm not going to play well," Allen said in an interview.
Allen has a beautiful shooting stroke, and the concern before the season began was that his efficiency would go down as his usage increased. After five games, his usage is up 20 percent compared to last season and all his shooting percentages have improved. His field goal attempts have increased from 3.0 per game to 13.8, his 3-point attempts have increased from 1.5 to 5.6, and his free throw attempts have boosted from 1.5 to 7.8. That's an astronomical jump, and he's shooting .512/.536/.897 so far. That's really, really good.
What I like about most for the Nuggets about Allen is his shooting. Right now Duke needs him to be a playmaker, running pick and roll and creating offense. With the Nuggets, Michael Malone wants an offense that moves the ball, utilizes dribble handoffs and screens, and gives players open space to get off shot attempts. Players need to be able and willing passers, while also able to make shots. He wants every player on the floor to be willing to plant their feet and set screens, screening the screener to help get the defense rotating. Allen is a tough, competitive bug, and if he's open, he can set his feet and stroke the ball. You don't need to tell him twice to take an open shot. That decisiveness would be beneficial to the Nuggets.
While Gary Harris is a young, promising player, the Nuggets are one of the worst teams in the league at the shooting guard position. They are dead last in the league for average points per game by opposing guards, according to Rotowire, and in a league where guards are increasingly becoming a focal point of offenses, you have to be able to either keep up or shut them down.
Allen's never going to be an Avery Bradley-caliber defender, but with his athleticism and hustle, he's no slug on defense. If he was drafted by the Nuggets, he'd likely end up guarding point guards while Emmanuel Mudiay switched onto larger 2's, but he has shown the lateral quickness to defend that position. He plays around 200 pounds, which makes him roughly the same size as Mudiay and Harris. With a Duke background, he's learned that floor-slapping, drop in position routine that every person that isn't a Duke fan hates with every ounce of their being. Give him all the vitriol in the world, but Coach K instills defensive principles in his players, whether it sticks or not.
With Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, Duke was switching on defense last season, and Allen was able to mark guys like Sam Dekker without getting exposed. He also shows a commitment to running his man off the 3-point line, a defensive principle Michael Malone desperately wants his players to develop. With his athleticism, he's not afraid to get in his man's face, knowing that he can recover and contest the drive. Allen also knows how to use his backside to clear space, which is really important for rebounding. With the trend to play smaller lineups, every player needs to be able to rebound, and Allen isn't afraid to crash the glass to get after loose balls.
If the draft comes up and the Nuggets are in a position to take Grayson Allen, they shouldn't think twice before sending his name to the commissioner. Not to name names, but a certain Nuggets shooting guard that wears No. 4 most likely won't be with the team next season. It's been a rough go, and it's not all his fault, but shooting guard is a position that definitely needs some attention if the Nuggets want to improve next season. Part of that will come as Gary Harris continues to develop, but drafting a player with talent like Allen will definitely help the process move along.