Last season was a bit of a coming-out party for Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen, as he made his first All-Star appearance. He helped anchor the interior on what ultimately became a top-five defense in the NBA. Allen also showed flashes of potential in areas he can improve despite already having played six seasons in the league.
Age: 24 years, 152 days
Weight: 243 lbs
2021-22 stats: 56 GP, 32.3 mpg on 67.7% shooting, 16.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.3 blocks
There are going to be tons of questions about how this Cavaliers squad functions offensively. It’s not going to be figured out in training camp. Or during the preseason. Or during the early stages of the regular season. It’s going to take time to figure out how to balance things between Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. That may make things ugly for a bit.
But Allen should remain as consistent and feast on the new opportunity in front of him. Increased spacing in the backcourt is going to give Allen a lot more work on the interior — especially if Evan Mobley ends up becoming a reliable threat from beyond the arc. Allen will also likely see a lot more offensive rebounding opportunities with Cleveland possibly going bombs away from three-point range.
Last season Allen averaged 3.4 offensive boards per game, which was a career-best. This upcoming season that number should likely increase with more chances inside and Mobley being an extra supersized body to create space to grab boards. This, in turn, should see an increase in scoring as well for Allen. Like his offensive rebounding, Allen’s 16.1 points per game last year was a career-high for him as well. You likely won’t see a dramatic increase from just the extra boards but could see a spike in points per game for Allen.
Where you’ll see the true jump for Allen on offense is using him in the pick-and-roll. When operating with Garland, a pick and roll that leads to either a layup or a lob have become a safety blanket for the Cavaliers. With Mitchell now in tow, who is a fairly elite pick-and-roll player on his own, Allen now has an additional passing option to feed him on the inside. In Garland and Mitchell, he’ll always have at least one guard on the floor comfortable throwing lobs.
Allen, though, will again make a massive impact on defense as well, looking to replicate the results of a top-five defensive unit from last season. With Garland and Mitchell starting together, it’s going to funnel a lot of opponents toward the paint. This is where Allen can really thrive and, alongside Mobley, help make a defensive pairing of Garland and Mitchell much more palatable.
The question is whether or not Allen can do more on defense than what’s already asked of him. Sure, he’ll likely match or exceed his career-best 1.6 blocks per game this season. But, how comfortable is he with being forced to switch on the perimeter in situations? Teams will try to isolate one of Garland or Mitchell and attack the basket, where Allen will be more than happy to greet them. But, if an opponent forces Allen to switch onto someone in isolation on the perimeter, is he equipped enough to handle the pressure that comes with it? Or will he be a liability out there?
Thankfully, you could see Allen took baby steps towards defending on the perimeter last season and should feel a bit more comfortable doing it this season. Maybe he won’t be quite as comfortable as Mobley is. But, the fact that Allen is willing to try is encouraging and could be something that J.B. Bickerstaff and his coaching staff encourage Allen to do more of. If he does and succeeds, this Cleveland squad could be one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Allen is an All-Star caliber big man and the fourth star in the new quartet the Cavaliers have formed. He won’t put up the flashiest numbers on a night-to-night basis but, during the chaos early in the season and come playoff time, he’ll always be consistent. Every team needs that.