Aside from Darius Garland’s growth, the most important outcome from this past season for the Cavaliers was the acquisition of Jarrett Allen. In replacing Andre Drummond with Allen the Cavs have a younger, better-fitting center who both complements and enhances the other young guys on the roster.
While the Brooklyn Nets were certainly the big winners in the James Harden trade, the Cavs perhaps benefited second-most. Cleveland determined early on the Drummond was not going to work long-term and quickly pivoted by latching on as an ancillary team. Scooping up Allen for Dante Exum and a late first-round pick is excellent value and fills a need on the team - a legitimate interior finisher, pick and roll man, and rim protector. Garland and Allen have already displayed a lethal two-man game:
Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen two-man game is lovely. pic.twitter.com/Ytgs89KZZ5— Mike Anguilano (@anguilanom22) April 21, 2021
Despite being big and athletic, Drummond was not a very good finisher near the basket. He shot a very poor 52% at the rim with the Cavs this past season — “good” for the third percentile per Cleaning the Glass. Allen shot 72% at the rim, placing himself in the respectable 72nd percentile. While Drummond had better overall rebounding numbers, the difference was more stark on the defensive side. On the offensive glass its more important that rebounds lead to points, or at least a kick out to reset the offense. Drummond averaged 3.6 offensive rebounds per game last season, while Allen averaged 3.1 per game -- not enough of a difference that the Cavs were killed. So, essentially, the Cavaliers sacrificed some rebounding for dramatically better finishing at the rim.
Another thing to keep in mind is the usage between Drummond and Allen. Drummond soaked up a lot of possession time or, even worse, totally ended possessions (once in hilarious fashion). Andre’s usage rate was a dramatic 30.1% per Cleaning the Glass, right up there with Julius Randle and Karl-Anthony Towns. Considering how inefficient Drummond is, running so much of the offense through him is a recipe for disaster. Jarrett Allen does not require high usage, nor even the ball in his hands to be impactful. He is mobile, sets good screens, makes smart passes, and can efficiently finish at the rim. The Cavs already have two ball-dominant players in Garland and Collin Sexton so having someone who can augment them, not inhibit them, is imperative.
Defensively, Jarrett Allen has what the Cavs require with small turnstile guards: excellent rim protection. Allen held opponents to 52% shooting at the rim, good for ninth-best out of all centers in the league. Extend that out a bit to ten feet and closer and Allen still stifles opposing players at 51%. He can hold is own in the pick and roll as well, important when teams try to hone in on Garland or Sexton and pick them apart. Allen also had a block percentage of 2.4% per Cleaning the Glass, meaning he can swat shots when dared - and shockingly people do dare nearly eight times per game. He is a smart defender too, only fouling on 1.8% of team plays last season. The best ability is availability, and Allen will not play himself off the court.
He is the anchor of the defense and an efficient offensive player at just over 23-years-old. The backcourt benefits from his presence on both sides of the floor. His fit next to Love makes sense, for however long Love will be on the team. He fits the timeline and will likely (hopefully) be on the next Cavaliers’ playoff team. Allen’s first season with the Cavs, all 62 games, flashed potential and a calm sense of dominance. No outbursts, no slouching, just work. The Cavs would be smart to keep him around long-term.