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Jarrett Allen’s offensive leap is the game changer the Cleveland Cavaliers needed

The Cavaliers’ $100 million man is having himself a career year in 2021.

Sacramento Kings v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Jarrett Allen had a lot of eyes on him entering the 2021 season.

When Allen and the Cleveland Cavaliers agreed on a five-year, $100 millon contract, it drew some skepticism. General optics would suggest that the team gave a max contract to nothing more than a rim runner and rim-protecting big man. There were plenty of bargain bin-style players that could fill that spot on the roster for much less. It wasn’t too long ago that the team had JaVale McGee for much less.

But he is now currently in the middle of a career season. Now, in his fifth season in the league, Allen is posting career highs in points (17.3) and effective field goal percentage (69.8%). Offensively, Allen has flashed the skills of a center who can break through past perceptions of himself.

A key part of this for Cleveland is the connection between Darius Garland and Allen in the pick-and-roll. his action forces defenders to pick their poison as they know it’ll more than likely end up either an ally-oop or a Garland floater. Allen being a constant threat with this play opens up a lot for the offense as well. There are times where defenders all collapse into the paint to neutralize the ferocious fro. This has allowed Allen to be a connective component for the Cavaliers’ offense. Off of the rolls, he has shown multiple times the vision to hit an open player on the perimeter for an easy basket.

Allen’s footwork has also been a major factor in his offensive growth. This season Allen has shown a level of comfort operating in the post. This is where Jarrett’s offseason workouts are put on display. Multiple times this year you see him leave defenders in the dust for an easy layup.

Another option in Allen’s bag is to pull out a little hook, which only makes his hesitations that much more believable. Allen this year gets 73% of his offensive production around the rim and 23% in the short midrange, according to Cleaning the Glass. However, the difference is that he is creating this variation in his shot at a higher success as his eFG% puts him in the 96th percentile at his position. A center can try to break the mold by stretching the floor, but unless you are Karl-Anthony Towns or Nikola Jokic, it rarely translates to effective play. Allen operating in the post around the midrange allows him to play comfortably and allows him to pass to cutters as well. He also just looks more comfortable as a passer this year than he ever has before.

Posting up as a big is a tricky situation for offenses as the bigs require space to operate. However, more times than not it turns into four others watching the center from a distance a la Andre Drummond last season. With Allen, you see backdoor cutters and offensive flow as J.B. Bickerstaff and the team brass feels comfortable with Allen’s feel for the game. There have been times where it’s an Allen feed in the post to a cutting Garland, Ricky Rubio, or Cedi Osman.

Roughly a quarter into the season, Allen shows no signs of slowing down. After winning a player of week back in early November, and being nominated for Player of the Month in the Eastern Conference, the NBA has taken notice. If Allen keeps this pace up, do not be surprised if the Allen will have a place in the All-Star Game in Cleveland this year.